White supremacist who killed young girl executed, first U.S. execution in 17 years

Lewis killed three people in 1996, an 8-year-old girl and both of her parents

Updated: July 14, 2020 - 11:52am

Convicted killer Daniel Lewis Lee was executed Tuesday morning in Indiana, the first U.S. execution in 17 years, following an overnight Supreme Court ruling that cleared the way for his death.

Lee was pronounced dead at 8:07 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, following a lethal injection of pentobarbital. 

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After 2 a.m. on Tuesday, the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 vote, overturned a lower court order temporarily blocking the federal execution of convicted killer

Lee's execution was scheduled for Monday, but a ruling Friday put the plan on hold following a lawsuit brought by the family of the victims, requesting a delay due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Justice Stephen Breyer, in his dissent, argued that it is time for the court to re-litigate the constitutionality of the death penalty. "The resumption of federal executions promises to provide examples that illustrate the difficulties of administering the death penalty consistent with the Constitution," he wrote.

A ruling Sunday by the Seventh District U.S. Court of Appeals allowed the execution to go forward on Monday, as planned. But the family's attorney made made an eleventh-hour appeal to the Supreme Court, and the execution was put on hold Monday morning.

Baker Kurrus, the family's lawyer, said in a statement, "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."

Lee, a white supremacist, who killed a family of three and dumped their bodies in a lake after torturing them, was originally scheduled for execution in December of last year, but the case was delayed after courts blocked the death sentence from being carried out.

Lee's execution will mark the restart of the federal government's ability to carry out death sentences, following a series of court decisions in recent months. 

Last year, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court's decision to prevent the death sentence from being carried out. However, in April, an appeals court ruled that executions could move forward. And Attorney General William Bar set June dates for the deaths of four men. 

Earlene Peterson, whose daughter, granddaughter and son-in-law were tortured, murdered, and thrown in a lake by Lee and his accomplice, has previously stated that she did not want Lee's execution done in her name. 

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