The United States of America’s Supreme Court has cleared the way for the execution of a federal prison inmate, removing a hold placed hours earlier by a trial judge. The justices voted to allow the execution of Daniel Lewis Lee to proceed at a federal prison in Indiana.
The Associated Press reports the Trump administration was moving ahead early Tuesday with the execution of the first federal prison inmate in 17 years – after a divided Supreme Court reversed lower courts and ruled federal executions could proceed.
Daniel Lewis Lee had been scheduled to receive a lethal dose of the powerful sedative pentobarbital at 4 p.m. EDT Monday. But a court order preventing Lee’s execution, issued Monday morning by U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, remained in place.
Lee has been convicted for the killings in 1996 of gun dealer William Mueller, his wife, Nancy, and her 8-year-old daughter, Sarah Powell.
AP reports that two more executions are scheduled this week, Wesley Ira Purkey on Wednesday and Dustin Lee Honken on Friday.
A fourth man, Keith Dwayne Nelson, is scheduled to be executed in August.
A federal appeals court in Washington refused the administration’s plea to step in, before the Supreme Court acted by a 5-4 vote. Still, Lee’s lawyers said the execution could not go forward after midnight under federal regulations.
With conservatives in the majority, the court said in an unsigned opinion that the prisoners’ “executions may proceed as planned.” The four liberal justices however remain firmly in disagreement.
The Bureau of Prisons had continued with preparations for Lee’s execution even as lower courts paused the proceedings.
The three men scheduled to be executed this week had also been given execution dates when Barr announced the federal government would resume executions last year, ending an informal moratorium on federal capital punishment as the issue receded from the public domain.
Executions in the United States, on the federal level have been rare and the government has put to death only three defendants since restoring the federal death penalty in 1988 — most recently in 2003, when Louis Jones was executed for the 1995 kidnapping, rape and murder of a young female soldier.
In 2014, following a botched state execution in Oklahoma, President Barack Obama directed the Justice Department to conduct a broad review of capital punishment and issues surrounding lethal injection drugs.
The attorney general said last July that the Obama-era review had been completed, clearing the way for executions to resume.