For the first time in 17 years, the federal government performed an execution by lethal injection. Daniel Lewis Lee was convicted of murdering an Arkansas family in the late 1990s, as he sought to create a “whites only” society. A known white supremacist, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBP) commited Lee in 2002.
“Inmate Lee, a member of a white supremacist group, murdered a family of three, including an eight-year-old girl. After robbing and shooting the victims with a stun gun, Lee covered their heads with plastic bags, sealed the bags with duct tape, weighed down each victim with rocks, and threw the family of three into the Illinois bayou. On May 4, 1999, a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas found Lee guilty of numerous offenses, including three counts of murder in aid of racketeering, and he was sentenced to death,” his file reads.
Civil rights proponents objected to the government resuming the practice of federal executions, but the Supreme Court gave the FBP the green light in a 5-4 ruling on ideological lines. The high court overturned a lower court’s decision to block the scheduled execution, with the majority asserting that these inmates are unlikely to make a substantial case under the Eighth Amendment:
“The plaintiffs in this case are all federal prisoners who have been sentenced to death for murdering children. The plaintiffs committed their crimes decades ago and have long exhausted all avenues for direct and collateral review,” the conservative majority wrote. “Hours before the first execution was set to take place, the District Court preliminarily enjoined all four executions on the ground that the use of pentobarbital likely constitutes cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the Eighth Amendment. Vacatur of that injunction is appropriate because, among other reasons, the plaintiffs have not established that they are likely to succeed on the merits of their Eighth Amendment claim. That claim faces an exceedingly high bar.”
Attorney General Bill Barr affirmed his support for resuming federal executions:
“The four murderers whose executions are scheduled today have received full and fair proceedings under our Constitution and laws,” AG Barr said. “We owe it to the victims of these horrific crimes, and to the families left behind, to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system.”
Three other inmates convicted of heinous crimes are also scheduled for executions.