U.S. executes Keith Dwayne Nelson for 1999 rape, murder of Kansas girl

Keith Nelson kidnapped, raped and strangled a young Kansas girl in 1999. File Photo courtesy attorney for Keith Nelson
Keith Nelson kidnapped, raped and strangled a young Kansas girl in 1999. File Photo courtesy attorney for Keith Nelson

Aug. 28 (UPI) -- The U.S. government on Friday executed a man convicted of raping and killing a 10-year-old girl more than 20 years ago after a federal appeals court dismissed a late stay.

Keith Dwayne Nelson became the fifth federal death row inmate to be put to death this year.


His attorneys, Dale Baich and Jen Moreno, tried to secure a stay of execution in the case, citing ineffective counsel at trial and an alleged violation of the Food, Drugs and Cosmetics Act.

"The execution of Keith Nelson did not make the world a safer place. Over the years, we have come to know Keith as someone who was different than the person who committed the horrible crime to which he admitted and pled guilty to in 2001," they said in a statement to UPI.

In a one-page ruling late Thursday, the three-member District of Columbia U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out an earlier order by District Judge Tanya Chutkan that halted the federal government's plans to execute Nelson.

Chutkan ruled earlier Thursday that the federal government must, by law, have a prescription for the drug it plans to use for the lethal injection -- the sedative pentobarbital. Chutkan agreed with Nelson's attorneys that using the drug without a prescription is a violation of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.


With little explanation, however, the appellate panel vacated Chutkan's injunction and cleared the way for Nelson to become the fifth federally executed inmate this year.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr resumed federal executions last month after a 17-year hiatus. The first four were Daniel Lewis Lee (July 14), Wesley Purkey (July 16), Dustin Honken (July 17) and Lezmond Mitchell (Wednesday).

Nelson, 45, pleaded guilty to the Oct. 12, 1999, kidnapping, rape and murder of a 10-year-old girl whom he abducted while she was rollerblading in front of her Kansas home.

Defense attorneys have argued Nelson was denied effective legal counsel at trial and the jury sentenced him to death without hearing of mitigating circumstances, including "severe organic brain damage," mental illness and physical and sexual abuse as a child.

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