Tuesday morning, the Justice Department carried out the execution by lethal injection of a White supremacist convicted of brutally murdering a husband, wife and their 8-year-old daughter in 1996. The death sentence of Daniel Lee Lewis was carried out at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind. It was the first execution of a federal capital sentence in 17 years.
In the wee hours Tuesday morning, as NR’s Brittany Bernstein reports, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated the injunction against the Justice Department’s execution of Lee, who had been on death row for over two decades. The High Court’s ruling permitted the DOJ to press ahead with a lethal injection that was originally scheduled to occur Monday afternoon. The Court’s 5–4 ruling also authorizes the DOJ to proceed with executions of three other defendants, scheduled to occur in the next few weeks.
In a column yesterday, I recounted the grisly facts of Lee’s prosecution. He was convicted of capital murder in aid of a racketeering enterprise — specifically, a White supremacist organization, for which he and an accomplice murdered a firearms dealer, along with the dealer’s wife and child, in robbing their home to steal guns and money. After shooting them with stun guns and asphyxiating them, Lee and his partner weighted the corpses down with stones and tossed them into the bayou. The bodies washed up in a lake six months later.
Last year, Attorney General Bill Barr announced plans to proceed with the executions of death-penalty convicts, some of whom have languished on death row for a quarter-century. There are about five dozen prisoners in the federal system who have been sentenced to death for capital murder, but there have been only three federal executions since 1988, and none since 2003.
As noted in the column, and in this follow-up post, Obama-appointed judges have been conjuring up roadblocks for this lawful Trump administration initiative — just as they have imperiously done in connection with various other Trump policies.
In the case of Lee’s scheduled execution, Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson, an Obama-appointee to the federal district court in Indiana, theorized that the lethal-injection procedure should be delayed so that relatives of the family Lee murdered could attend.
There is no federal legal right of victims’ families to attend executions, which — it should go without saying — are not public proceedings. The relatives in question oppose the death penalty and were hoping to convert an invitation to the execution into an interminable delay, on the ground that they could not travel safely until the coronavirus pandemic eased.