The United States carried out its first federal execution in more than 17years on Tuesday, putting Daniel Lewis Lee — who was convicted of murdering an Arkansas family in 1996 — to death, as the Associated Press reported.
Prior to Tuesday’s execution, the last federal execution in the U.S. had taken place in March 2003, when Louis Jones, Jr. — a 22-year Army veteran who’d reached the rank of Master Sgt. —was put to death for the 1995 rape and murder of Pvt. Tracie McBride.
Lee’s scheduled execution had been the subject of a series of legal maneuvers between the victim’s family and the Justice Department. Relatives of Lee’s victims had sued to stop the execution, citing concerns about attending the process during the coronavirus pandemic. Relative Monica Veillette said that she wanted to be there in order to make it clear that the family didn’t want the execution carried out in their name, preferring instead that Lee do life in prison.
“For us it is a matter of being there and saying, ‘this is not being done in our name; we do not want this,'” she said.
On Monday, as reported by The Inquisitr, Judge Tanya Chutkan blocked the Trump administration’s plan to move forward with federal executions, effectively blocking Lee’s scheduled execution in the process. However, the matter went all the way to the Supreme Court, which cleared the way for Lee’s execution with a 5-4 decision; Lee was put to death a short time later.
Having maintained his innocence until the end, Lee’s final words were, “You’re killing an innocent man.”
Lee was pronounced dead at 8:07 a.m. Eastern Time. Attorney General William Barr said that justice was served.
“Lee finally faced the justice he deserved. The American people have made the considered choice to permit capital punishment for the most egregious federal crimes, and justice was done today in implementing the sentence for Lee’s horrific offenses,” Barr said.
In January 1996, Lee and an accomplice, Chevie Kehoe, both members of the white supremacist organization the Aryan Peoples’ Republic, traveled from Washington State to Arkansas with a view towards robbing gun dealer William Frederick Mueller, whom Kehoe and his father had robbed once before. When the pair arrived at the home, they killed the family of three by knocking them out with stun guns, then putting bags over their heads and suffocating them before throwing their bodies into a swamp, according to the book, An Encyclopedia of Right-Wing Extremism in Modern American History.