At 8.07 on Tuesday morning, the United States carried out the first federal death sentence in the past 17 years. Even the Supreme Court did not save Daniel Lewis Lee, a former white supremacist convicted of the murder of a family of three in 1996, who spent his last words to reiterate his innocence. It wasn’t me, he said before he was given the lethal injection in the Terre Haute, Indiana penitentiary. I’ve made several mistakes in my life, but I’m not a murderer. You are killing an innocent. Initially scheduled for Monday evening, the execution had been blocked at the latest by the Washington Court of Appeal along with that of three other inmates who are expected to receive the lethal injection in the coming weeks: the Justice Department appealed against the decision , and the US high court overnight gave permission to proceed. The resumption of federal executions, wrote for progressive area judges Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Gingsburg, promises to provide examples that explain the difficulty of administering the death penalty in accordance with the constitution.
The return of the death penalty at the federal level
Last year, Justice Minister William Barr, loyal to Donald Trump, sanctioned the return of the death penalty, who ordered the Bureau of Prisons to proceed with the execution of death row inmates convicted of the murder, torture or rape of the most vulnerable people in society: children and the elderly. Barr’s decision triggered a series of legal battles, not least because the latest federal execution dates back to 2003, when the death sentence of Louis Jones Jr., a Gulf War veteran guilty of killing the Soldier Tracie Joy McBride in 1995. Despite – after a double Supreme Court ruling – the death penalty has become legal again at the federal level since 1988, executions have so far been rather rare: according to data from the Death Penalty Information Center, 78 people have received a federal death sentence between 1988 and 2018, but only 3 were actually carried out.
Protesters protest Daniel Lewis Lee’s execution in front of Terre Haute, Indiana penitentiary (photo Scott Olson / Getty Images North America / Afp)
The opposition of the victims’ families
The first to end up in the execution room was Lee, 47, who tortured and killed a couple and their daughter in 1996, throwing the bodies into a lake in Arkansas. To oppose his execution was always Earlene Peterson, maternal grandmother of the little girl, now 81 years old, for whom the culprit should spend the rest of her life behind bars, like her accomplice. Daniel Lee destroyed my life, but I don’t think taking his would change anything, Peterson has always said, who until the last tried to stop the lethal injection also claiming that he could not attend because of the pandemic. Now, 61 prisoners are awaiting federal death row, including three inmates – all convicted of killing children – who are expected to receive lethal injection during the summer.
July 14, 2020 (change July 14, 2020 | 4:18 PM)
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