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Judge again halts federal execution of Daniel Lewis Lee

By Don Jacobson
Judge again halts federal execution of Daniel Lewis Lee
Daniel Lewis Lee had been scheduled to die for killing three people in 1996. File Photo by Doug Smith/Florida Department of Corrections/Wikimedia Commons

July 13 (UPI) -- A judge has blocked the scheduled execution Monday of Daniel Lewis Lee, again putting off what had been set to be the first federal execution in nearly 20 years.

Lee's scheduled execution at the Federal Correctional Institution in Terre Haute, Ind., has been on and off for days.

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals had overturned a different injunction on Sunday to clear the way for the execution before Washington, D.C., Judge Tanya Chutkan issued another Monday.

Chutkan in her ruling cited concerns that the lethal injection process is "very likely to cause extreme pain and needless suffering."

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The injunction also covered three other U.S. death row inmates -- including two scheduled to die this week -- under new execution protocols announced by the Justice Department last year.

Wesley Purkey was scheduled to die Wednesday, Dustin Honken was scheduled Friday and Keith Dwayne Nelson is scheduled for Aug. 28.

"The government has been trying to plow forward with these executions despite many unanswered questions about the legality of its new execution protocol," defense attorney Shawn Nolan said in a statement.

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"The district court's injunction ensures that the courts will have the opportunity to carefully address those issues."

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The Trump administration is expected to appeal the new injunction.

Lee was sentenced to die for his role as an accomplice in the 1996 murders of William Mueller, his wife Nancy Mueller and stepdaughter Sarah Powell in Georgia.

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A judge had halted Lee's execution over the weekend in response to a lawsuit from relatives of the victims that asked for a delay so they could attend.

While individual states have performed their own executions for decades, there has been a moratorium on federal executions since 2003. The last occurred that year when the U.S. government executed Gulf War veteran Louis Jones Jr. for the 1995 rape and murder of Pvt. Tracie McBride.

Last year, U.S. Attorney General William Barr ordered the federal government to resume capital punishment and told the Bureau of Prisons to schedule the deaths of five federal inmates but a number of injunctions delayed the dates until this month.

Chutkan also said she issued the restraining order Monday to give courts time to hear a legal challenge from the inmates against the administration's new execution protocols.

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