US to resume federal executions and will put to death four men

US to resume federal executions and will put to death four men

June 16, 2020

Federal executions will restart next month after 17 years: Bill Barr reveals a white supremacist who murdered a family, two child rapists and a gunman who killed five will be the first inmates put to death by the US government since 2003

  • Four men on death row who have been scheduled by the US Department of Justice for execution will be the first inmates to be put to death since 2003
  • The US Justice Department set new dates to begin executing the four men, including a white supremacist, following a months-long legal battle
  • Attorney General William Barr told the federal Bureau of Prisons to schedule the executions beginning in mid-July at Federal Correctional Complex Terre Haute
  • Executions 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 

Four death-row inmates, including a white supremacist, have been scheduled for execution by the Justice Department, and will be the first prisoners to be put to death since 2003.

The Justice Department set new dates for executing the four men starting in mid-July following a months-long legal battle that held back the plan. 

The inmates who will be executed include among them Daniel Lewis Lee, 48, an avowed white supremacist, convicted for the 1996 murder of a family of three, including an eight-year-old girl in Arkansas.

Wesley Ira Purkey, 68, of Kansas, will be executed for the rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl and an 80-year-old woman. A third man scheduled for death is Dustin Lee Honken, 52, who killed five people in Iowa, including two children. 

Also to be executed is Keith Dwayne Nelson, 45, who kidnapped a 10-year-old girl who was rollerblading in front of her Kansas home and raped her in a forest behind a church before strangling the young girl to death with a wire.

Daniel Lewis Lee, 47-year-old avowed white supremacist, was scheduled to be put to death on Monday for the 1996 murder of a family of three, including an eight-year-old girl in Arkansas



Inmates (left to right) Wesley Ira Purkey, 68; Dustin Lee Honken, 52; and Keith Dwayne Nelson, 45, are scheduled for execution by order of US Attorney General William Barr

Lee, Purkley and Honken – are scheduled days apart beginning July 13. Nelson’s execution is scheduled for Aug. 28. The Justice Department said additional executions will be set at a later date. 

The order to the federal Bureau of Prisons to schedule the four inmates to death comes from Attorney General William Barr. 

Three had been scheduled to be put to death 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 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. The last came in 2003, when Louis Jones was executed for the 1995 kidnapping, rape and murder of a young female soldier. 

Though there hasn’t been a federal execution in about 17 years, the Justice Department has continued to approve death penalty prosecutions and federal courts have sentenced defendants to death. 

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. 

The order to the federal Bureau of Prisons to schedule the four inmates to death comes from Attorney General William Barr. Barr is pictured at the White House on Monday

He approved a new procedure for lethal injections that replaces the three-drug combination previously used in federal executions with one drug, pentobarbital. This is similar to the procedure used in several states, including Georgia, Missouri and Texas, but not all.

Barr told the AP in November that the federal Bureau of Prisons had been testing and conducting practice drills ahead of the first execution. He would not say where the drugs would come from.

Those chosen were among inmates who had exhausted their appeals, and the cases were forwarded to senior Justice Department officials who reviewed the cases and made recommendations to him, Barr said.

President Donald Trump has spoken often about capital punishment and his belief that executions serve as an effective deterrent and an appropriate punishment for some crimes, including mass shootings and the killings of police officers.   

President Donald Trump has spoken about capital punishment and his belief that executions serve as an effective deterrent and appropriate punishment for some crimes, including mass shootings and police officers killings. He is pictured at the White House Monday

Lawyers for the men decried the Justice Department’s decision to move ahead with the executions.

Ruth Friedman, an attorney for Lee, said the government relied on ‘junk science and false evidence’ in his case and said he is trying to get a court to consider problems in his prosecution. A federal judge denied Lee´s request for a new trial but noted that evidence presented by his attorneys ‘is reasonably likely’ to have led to a different sentence.

‘Given all of these circumstances, it would be unconscionable for the government to execute Danny Lee,’ Friedman said. 

A federal judge denied Lee´s request for a new trial but noted that evidence presented by his attorneys ‘is reasonably likely’ to have led to a different sentence

Lee was condemned to death by a federal jury in 1999 for the murders of Bill Mueller, his wife Nancy, and Nancy’s daughter, Sarah Powell.

Nancy’s mother Earlene Peterson, opposes Lee’s execution due to her religious convictions and appealed to Trump to grant Lee clemency. 

‘I can’t see how executing Daniel Lee will honor my daughter in any way,’ said Peterson, mother of Nancy and grandmother of Sarah, in a video posted online.

‘In fact, kind of like it dirties her name because she wouldn’t want it and I don’t want it.’

The mother of Nancy Mueller, Earlene Peterson, is opposed to Lee’s execution

Lee was condemned to death by a federal jury in 1999 for the murders of Bill Mueller, his wife Nancy (right), and Nancy’s daughter, Sarah Powell (left)

Purkey’s attorney, Rebecca Woodman, said her client suffers from schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia and doesn’t understand why the government plans to execute him. ‘No execution should proceed unless and until the question of Wes’s competency is resolved,’ she said.

The death-row inmate was convicted on December 13, 2019 for the rape, murder and dismemberment of 16-year-old Jennifer Long in his Kansas home in 1998. 

He was also convicted of beating 80-year-old Mary Bales to death with a hammer. 

Purkey (pictured before his conviction) suffers from schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia and doesn’t understand why the government plans to execute him, says his attorney

Purkey was convicted on December 13, 2019 for the rape, murder and dismemberment of 16-year-old Jennifer Long in his Kansas home in 1998

An attorney for Honken, Shawn Nolan, said Honken’s trial and sentencing proceeding were ‘plagued by misconduct and the ineffectiveness of counsel’ and said he was been denied a full and fair review of the alleged defects in the case. 

Nolan was convicted after he shot and killed five people—two men who planned to testify against him and a single, working mother and her ten-year-old and six-year-old daughters. 

Nolan described Honken as a ‘deeply remorseful and devout Catholic and loving father of two children.’ 

Nolan was convicted after he shot and killed five people—two men who planned to testify against him and a single, working mother and her ten-year-old and six-year-old daughters

An attorney for Nelson did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment. 

Nelson was convicted of the kidnapping and murder of Pamela Butler in 1999. He had kidnapped Pamela as she roller-skated near her home in Kansas City, Kansas, stuffed her into the cab of a pickup truck, drove east into Missouri and stopped in the parking lot of a Grain Valley church. 

He then dragged her into a densely wooded area, beat her and strangled her with speaker wire. He was arrested two days later on the bank of the Kansas River.  

The executions of four death row inmates will take place at the Federal Correctional Complex Terre Haute in Terre Haute, Indiana

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