United States Conducted First Federal Execution in Seventeen Years

Terre-Haute prison, Indiana, in March 2003.

A former white supremacist sentenced to death for a triple murder was executed Tuesday, July 14, during the first federal execution in seventeen years in the United States, announced the United States Department of Justice.

Daniel Lee died at 8:07 a.m. (1:07 p.m. Paris time) of a lethal injection at Terre-Haute prison in Indiana, the ministry said in a statement sent to Agence France-Presse. (AFP). “You are killing an innocent man”, said the convict before he died, according to a reporter for theIndianapolis Star who witnessed the execution.

He was convicted in 1999 of the murder of a couple and their 8-year-old girl in Arkansas during a robbery intended to finance a supremacist group. Daniel Lee, 47, was due to be executed on Monday, but last-minute legal proceedings delayed the proceedings.

In the night, the Supreme Court gave the green light to the federal authorities for this execution, the first since 2003, under the impulse of the government of Donald Trump who claims an reinforced use of this sanction. Two other federal executions are scheduled this week, and a fourth at the end of August.

Read also United States: Supreme Court authorizes resumption of federal executions after seventeen years of interruption

Four scheduled executions

These four executions involve men sentenced to death by federal courts for the murder of children. Following last-minute appeals, federal judge Tanya Chutkan had suspended these executions on Monday, including that of Daniel Lewis Lee scheduled for the same day at 9 p.m. Paris time.

Judge Chutkan considered that all the appeals filed by the four convicts had not been completed. “It is not in the general interest to bypass a legitimate judicial procedure”, she said.

The Supreme Court, seized by the Ministry of Justice, however, found that the condemned had “Not taken the necessary steps to justify the last minute intervention of a federal court”. “We are quashing the preliminary injunction of the district court and the executions can take place as planned”, concluded the Supreme Court early Tuesday.

Calls for leniency

As the deadline approached, calls had increased for the President of the United States, Donald Trump, to be lenient towards Daniel Lee. “As a supporter of President Trump, I pray that he will hear my message: the execution of Danny Lee for the murder of my daughter and granddaughter is not what I want and will bring more pain to my family “said Earlene Peterson, who opposed the death penalty on religious grounds.

With other members of the family, she had brought a legal action to obtain a postponement of the execution. Citing their vulnerability to the new coronavirus, they argued that they were faced with an impossible choice between their right to assist in the execution of the convicted person and respect for their health.

A thousand religious, Catholic and evangelical leaders also called on the president to stand “Focus on the protection of life and not on executions” in these times of Covid-19. Friday the European Union asked him to “Reconsider” a position which, according to her, “Goes against a general tendency in the United States and in the world to abolish the death penalty, by law or in practice”.

In fact, “only” 22 executions took place in 2019 in the United States and seven since the start of the year. Most crimes are tried at the state level, but the federal justice can deal with the most serious acts (terrorist attacks, racist crimes …) or committed on military bases, between several states or on Amerindian reservations.

Three federal executions in forty-five years

In the past forty-five years, only three people have been executed at the federal level, including Timothy McVeigh, responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing (168 dead in 1995) in 2001. The last federal execution dates back to 2003.

To everyone’s surprise, the Minister of Justice, William Barr, however announced a year ago that he intended to return to this practice. After a series of judicial twists and turns, he set the schedule in June, just as the Covid-19 cases were on the rise in much of the country.

Polls show that fewer Americans support the death penalty, although a majority among Republican voters, 77% of whom support the use of the maximum penalty for murderers. Before his supporters, Donald Trump, who hopes to win the presidential election for a second term, on November 3, regularly calls for a reinforced use of this ultimate sanction, especially for police killers or drug traffickers.

The World with AFP


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here