July 16 (UPI) -- The federal government on Thursday carried out its second execution this week after the Supreme Court again lifted a judge's order blocking the lethal injection of inmate Wesley Purkey and two others.
Purkey, 68, was put to death at 8:19 a.m. EDT at the U.S. Penitentiary at Terre Haute, Ind. He had been scheduled to die Wednesday before Washington, D.C., District Judge Tanya Chutkan granted a stay blocking his death and executions for two other federal inmates.
In a one-page order early Thursday, the high court granted a Justice Department request to vacate the stay, which came via a 5-4 decision.
Purkey was the second federal prisoner executed this week. Daniel Lewis Lee was put to death on Tuesday after a 17-year moratorium on federal executions.
Thursday's order was a repeat performance by the Supreme Court. Chutkan had also blocked Lee's execution on Monday before the high court stepped in early Tuesday.
The government executed Purkey for the rape and murder of 16-year-old Jennifer Long in 1998. After killing the teen, he dismembered, burned and dumped her body in a septic pond. He was also convicted in state court of murdering 80-year-old Mary Ruth Bales with a hammer.
Purkey's attorneys had argued that his execution should at least be delayed because dementia has left him unable to understand his punishment.
"Wes Purkey is a severely brain-damaged and mentally ill man who suffers from Alzheimer's disease," defense attorney Rebecca Woodman said.
Sotomayor wrote in dissent that proceeding with Purkey's execution now, despite "grave questions and factual findings" about his mental competency, cast a "shroud of constitutional doubt over the most irrevocable of injuries."
A third execution at the Terre Haute facility, for inmate Dustin Lee Honken, is scheduled for Friday, and a fourth, for Keith Dwayne Nelson, is set for Aug. 28.