The U.S. has carried out the first federal execution in nearly two decades, putting to death a man who was convicted of killing an Arkansas family in the 1990s in a plot to build a whites-only nation in the Pacific Northwest.
Forty-seven-year-old Daniel Lewis Lee, of Yukon, Oklahoma, died Tuesday after receiving a lethal injection at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Lee said before his execution that he was innocent. “I didn’t do it,” Lee said just before he was executed. “I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life, but I’m not a murderer. ... You’re killing an innocent man.”
— Tim Evans (@starwatchtim) July 14, 2020
He is the first death row inmate to be executed since 2003.
The execution of Lee, who was pronounced dead at 8:07 a.m. EDT, went off after a series of legal volleys that ended when the Supreme Court stepped in early Tuesday in a 5-4 ruling and allowed it to move forward.
Attorney General William Barr has said the Justice Department has a duty to carry out the sentences imposed by the courts, including the death penalty, and to bring a sense of closure to the victims and those in the communities where the killings happened.
But relatives of those killed by Lee in 1996 strongly opposed that idea and long argued that Lee deserved a sentence of life in prison. They wanted to be present to counter any contention that the execution was being done on their behalf.
They noted that Lee’s co-defendant and the reputed ringleader, Chevie Kehoe, received a life sentence.
Two other federal executions are scheduled for later this week, though one is on hold in a separate legal claim.