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Daniel Lewis Lee executed by lethal injection in Indiana

Lee was convicted with another man of murdering a family in 1996.

Daniel Lewis Lee pictured in 1997. His lawyers say he has renounced white supremacy.
Daniel Lewis Lee pictured in 1997. His lawyers say he has renounced white supremacy.
Image: Dan Pierce/PA Images

A FORMER WHITE supremacist convicted of murdering a family of three in 1996 has been put to death by lethal injection in the first federal execution in the United States in 17 years, the Justice Department said.

Daniel Lewis Lee, 47, was pronounced dead at 8:07 am (1;07 pm Irish time) at Terre Haute prison in Indiana, the department said in a statement.

The execution came after The Supreme Court allowed it to proceed, overturning a lower court order delaying a number of executions. 

Four federal executions were scheduled but a district court judge had suspended them to allow for legal challenges to the lethal injection that was to be used.

Lee was convicted with another man of murdering a family of three during a robbery intended to help fund the founding of an “Aryan Peoples Republic”.

He is the first federal inmate to be executed in the United States since 2003 and the first since President Donald Trump announced plans to resume federal executions.

There have been just three federal executions since the death penalty was reinstated in 1988.

Lee and another man, Chevie Kehoe, were convicted in Arkansas in 1999 of the 1996 murders of gun dealer William Mueller, his wife, and her eight-year-old daughter.

According to prosecutors, the pair robbed Mueller to steal guns that they planned to sell to finance the founding of a white supremacist “Aryan Peoples Republic” in the Pacific Northwest.

Lee, who has since renounced his white supremacist beliefs according to his lawyers, was sentenced to death while Kehoe received three life sentences without the possibility of parole.

‘Untenable position’

Earlene Peterson, 81, whose daughter and granddaughter were killed, has campaigned against Lee’s death sentence, saying she wants him to spend the rest of his life behind bars.

“It’s an easy way out,” Peterson told The New York Times. “He should have to live through this. Like I did.”

Peterson and relatives of other victims also filed a lawsuit seeking to delay the execution, arguing that it was dangerous for them to travel to Terre Haute to witness Lee’s execution because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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An appeals court dismissed the suit on Sunday, but Baker Kurrus, a lawyer for the families, said he would take it to the Supreme Court.

“The federal government has put this family in the untenable position of choosing between their right to witness Danny Lee’s execution and their own health and safety,” Kurrus said.

The Supreme Court, however, denied their application.

More than 1,000 US religious leaders urged Trump last week to abandon plans to resume federal executions but the president, who faces a tough re-election battle in November, has called for stepped-up use of capital punishment, especially for killers of police officers and drug traffickers.

Only a handful of US states, mainly in the conservative South, still actively carry out executions. In 2019, 22 people were put to death.

Most crimes are tried under state laws, but federal courts handle some of the most serious crimes, including terror attacks and hate crimes.

© – AFP 2020

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