U.S. carries out the first federal execution in 17 years

On Tuesday the federal government carried out its first execution in 17 years, killing Daniel Lewis Lee, 47, by lethal injection.  Lee was convicted of murdering an Arkansas family in a 1990s plot to build a whites-only nation in the Pacific Northwest.

Lee, 47, of Yukon, Oklahoma, professed his innocence just before he was executed at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.

“I didn’t do it,” Lee said. “I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life, but I’m not a murderer.”

The execution of Daniel Lewis Lee sparked controversy. The victim’s relatives objected the decision to move forward with the execution, and they even sued to try to halt it. Civil rights groups also scrutinized the decision to carry out the execution. Critics argued that the government was creating an unnecessary and manufactured urgency for political gain.

The execution of Lee, who died 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.

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