Supreme Court Approves First Federal Executions in 17 Years, First Scheduled Tuesday

The United States Supreme Court approved the first set of executions within the federal justice system in an early-morning court ruling on Tuesday, overturning a court order blocking the Department of Justice from proceeding with the first planned execution on the basis of coronavirus safety concerns.

Daniel Lewis Lee is slated to become the first federal prisoner to be executed in seventeen years. Lee has been convicted of a triple murder of an Arkansas gun salesman and his family, torturing the family and killing them before dumping their bodies in a lake. Lee, a white supremacist, had been seeking to steal funds for a militia with which he planned to overthrow the United States government.

Family members of Lee’s triple murder victims oppose his execution, preferring that he receive a life sentence instead. It appears that the death sentence Lee was given in 1999 will be carried out on Tuesday afternoon, barring any unlikely last-minute clemency measures on the part of the President.

Lee had been originally scheduled to be executed through lethal injection at the Terre Haute federal prison on Monday, which houses the U.S. government’s death row and execution facilities. Lee’s lawyers and the family of Lee’s murder victims argued that commencing with the execution after a correctional officer at Terre Haute tested positive for coronavirus would endanger those legally entitled to observe the execution proceedings, a challenge overturned in a 5-4 ruling on the part of the Supreme Court.

Two more executions are planned at Terre Haute within the week, those of convicted murderers Dustin Lee Honken and Wesley Ira Purkey.