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U.S. carries out first federal execution in 17 years

Two other federal executions are scheduled for later this week, though one is on hold in a separate legal claim.
In this Oct. 31, 1997 file photo, Daniel Lewis Lee waits for his arraignment hearing for...
In this Oct. 31, 1997 file photo, Daniel Lewis Lee waits for his arraignment hearing for murder in the Pope County Detention Center in Russellville, Ark. (Source: Dan Pierce/The Courier via AP, File) (WTVG)
Published: Jul. 14, 2020 at 9:10 AM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT/AP) - The U.S. government on Tuesday carried out the first federal execution in nearly two decades.

Daniel Lewis Lee 47, of Yukon, Oklahoma, died by lethal injection at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana. Lewis was charged in the murder of an Arkansas family in the 1990s in a plot to build a whites-only nation in the Pacific Northwest. The execution came over the objection of the victims’ family.

The decision to move forward with the execution was the first by the Bureau of Prisons since 2003. The decision drew scrutiny from civil rights groups and the relatives of Lee’s victims, who sued in an attempt to halt the execution, citing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the AP’s Mike Balsamo, who witnessed the execution, Lee was strapped to a gurney wearing a brown shirt with an IV in his left arm. When asked if he wanted to make a final statement, he said, in part: “I didn’t do it. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life but I’m not a murderer.” “You’re killing an innocent man,” Lee said.

Lee’s execution went off after a series of legal volleys that ended when the Supreme Court stepped in early Tuesday in a 5-4 ruling and allowed it to move forward.

Relatives of those killed by Lee in 1996 strongly opposed that idea and long argued that Lee deserved a sentence of life in prison. They wanted to be present to counter any contention that the execution was being done on their behalf.

“For us, it is a matter of being there and saying, `This is not being done in our name; we do not want this,‘” relative Monica Veillette said.

Two other federal executions are scheduled for later this week, though one is on hold in a separate legal claim.

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