Daniel Lewis Lee became the first person to be executed by the federal government in 17 years. The time of death was 8:07 a.m.
Lee was convicted in the 1996 killing on a family in Arkansas, including an eight-year-old girl.
The fight to keep Lee alive ended with a 5-4 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, saying the people who were arguing to keep the execution from happening did not have an argument that would hold up.
The Supreme Court vacated an injunction against the execution, which was in place because the inmates argued that the use of pentobarbital as the sole drug, was likely cruel and unusual punishment. Some inmates executed with the drug in the past have made statements shortly before their deaths that they felt a burning sensation.
“Among other reasons, the plaintiffs have not established that they are likely to succeed on the merits of their Eighth Amendment claim. That claim faces an exceedingly high bar,” stated the court.
The Dept. of Justice, in a statement released shortly before Lee’s death, said that the people arguing for the stay brought up a technical issue, saying there was a challenge that the government could not yet carry out the execution because it did not have permission from the 8th Circuit Court, which covers Arkansas, where Lee was convicted.
“While we disagree with Lee’s counsel claim, this was a claim that could have been raised for several weeks yet his counsel waited until the eleventh hour to raise it. Issuance of the mandate, in our view, is not necessary as a matter of law to proceed with the execution, the 8th Circuit’s entry of judgment in early June and the Supreme Court’s order vacating the last remaining stay early this morning – judicial actions that allowed the execution to lawfully move forward.”
The DOJ went ahead and asked for a mandate from the 8th Circuit out of “an abundance of caution”.
The executions of two more men are scheduled for this week at the prison, including Wesley Purkey, on Wednesday, and Dustin Lee Honken on Friday.
The federal prison in Terre Haute is the only place where federal prisoners on death row are executed.