Judge blocks federal execution set to happen in Terre Haute, DOJ appealing to Supreme Court

A federal judge on Monday blocked the planned execution of convicted killer Daniel Lewis Lee, and three others, citing ongoing challenges to the federal government's lethal injection protocol.

Posted: Jul 13, 2020 5:24 PM
Updated: Jul 14, 2020 9:57 AM

(CNN) -- A federal judge on Monday blocked the planned execution of convicted killer Daniel Lewis Lee, and three others, citing ongoing challenges to the federal government's lethal injection protocol.

Lee is scheduled to be executed Monday, which would be the first federal execution in 17 years.

The injunction from Judge Tanya Chutkan in Washington, DC, applies to three other inmates on death row: Wesley Ira Purkey, Dustin Lee Honken and Keith Dwayne Nelson.

The Justice Department has appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court.

Two other appeals seeking to delay the execution are also pending at the Supreme Court. One concerns the family of Lee's victims who are concerned about traveling and going to a federal prison during the coronavirus pandemic. The second regards evidence presented by prosecutors during his sentencing hearing.

Lee, a one-time white supremacist who killed a family of three, had originally been scheduled for execution in December, but his case was delayed after the courts blocked the death sentence from being carried out.

Earlene Peterson -- whose daughter, granddaughter and son-in-law were tortured, killed and dumped in a lake by Lee and an accomplice -- has opposed Lee's execution, telling CNN last year that she did not want it done in her name.

Lee's scheduled execution has long been anticipated to be the moment that the federal government once again began fulfilling the fate of inmates sentenced to die after a series of court decisions in the last several months.

In December, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court blocking the death sentence from being carried out last year. But an appeals court decided in April that the executions could move forward, and Attorney General William Barr set new dates for Lee and three other men in June. Since then, lawyers for the men have made several last-ditch efforts to delay the executions, including the lawsuit that was filed this week by the family of Lee's victims.

ON AGAIN, OFF AGAIN 

On Friday evening, a federal judge granted an injunction. That was to halt the execution until COVID-19 became more contained.

The reason is the family of Lee's victims argues they have a right to be there for the execution, but they are worried attending puts them at risk.

On Saturday, things changed again. The Department of Justice filed an emergency motion, claiming the work to prepare for the execution has already been done...and can not be undone.

The DOJ won that appeal.

WHO IS DANIEL LEE?

In 1999 a jury found Daniel Lee guilty of killing a family of three in Arkansas.

They were a federal firearms licensee and his family. An eight-year-old girl was among the victims.

The Department of Justice says say Lee and another man robbed and shot them in 1996.

After that, they covered their heads with plastic bags, weighed them down with rocks, and threw them into a body of water.

The family of the victims, the prosecutor, and the judge who tried the case all say Lee should not be executed because the other man in the case received a life sentence, instead of the death sentence.

PROTESTS

News 10 has been following protests for the execution.

COVID-19 is a big concern to a lot of people when it comes to these executions. That was the reason for the first appeal.

Capital punishment is also a hot button topic nationwide.

That's why our crews were surprised that there were no protesters at the designated site either for...or against the executions.

Officers were on hand to process protesters, but nobody showed up.

On Monday morning, a group called 'Death Penalty Action' were there. The group is against the death penalty. Locally, that includes the 'Terre Haute Death Penalty Resistance.'

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