Feds Conduct First Execution in 17 Years

Daniel Lee was executed in Indiana Tuesday morning after a divided Supreme Court allowed the procedure to proceed, the Wall Street Journal reports. Lee, 47, was pronounced dead at 8:07 a.m., the first federal execution since 2003. Early Tuesday morning, the high court’s five-justice conservative majority rejected inmate claims that using pentobarbital for lethal injections would be unconstitutional. The court ruled in a case filed by four condemned men and their allies after Attorney General William Barr announced plans a year ago to reactivate the federal death chamber in Terre Haute, In. The executions of the men convicted of murder had been set to begin Monday at 4 p.m., starting with Lee for the 1996 killings of an Arkansas gun dealer, his wife and her 8-year-old daughter.

Monday morning, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan blocked the government from proceeding so inmates could present arguments that pentobarbital, the drug chosen for lethal injection, could cause “extreme pain and needless suffering during their executions.” The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit declined the government’s request to reinstate the executions. The Justice Department appealed to the Supreme Court. The conservative justices said the court’s role was to “fairly and expeditiously” resolve challenges to lawful sentences, leaving the issue of capital punishment to the legislative process. The court’s four liberal justices dissented, with two of them suggesting the death penalty couldn’t be applied in accord with the Constitution.

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