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US to proceed with first federal execution in almost 20 years

World News | Published:

The move has been criticised as political as it takes place amid a global health pandemic which has ravaged the country’s prisons.

Exterior of US prison in Terre Haute, Indiana

The US government is planning to carry out the first federal execution in nearly two decades on Monday, over the objection of the family of the victims and after a volley of legal proceedings over the coronavirus pandemic.

Daniel Lewis Lee, of Yukon, Oklahoma, is scheduled to die by lethal injection at 4pm (8pm GMT) on Monday at a federal prison in Indiana.

He was convicted in Arkansas of the 1996 killings of gun dealer William Mueller, his wife, Nancy, and her eight-year-old daughter, Sarah Powell.

The execution, the first of a federal death row inmate since 2003, comes after a federal appeals court lifted an injunction late on Sunday that had been put in place last week after the victims’ family argued they would be put at high risk for coronavirus if they had to travel to attend the execution.

The family had vowed to appeal to the Supreme Court.

The decision to move forward with the execution – and two others scheduled later in the week – during a global health pandemic which has ravaged the country’s prisons has drawn scrutiny from civil rights groups and the family of Lee’s victims.

Critics have argued that the government is creating an unnecessary and manufactured urgency around a topic that is not high on the current list of American concerns.

It is also likely to add a new front to the national conversation about criminal justice reform in the lead-up to the 2020 elections.

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