THE FAMILY of three victims killed by white supremacist Daniel Lee Lewis have pleaded his execution be delayed.
The one-eyed killer is to be the first execution of a federal prison inmate in 17 years.
Daniel Lewis Lee and his accomplice, Chevie Kehoe, were convicted of murder in aid of racketeering in 1999 for killing William Frederick Mueller, his wife Nancy Ann Mueller and his eight-year-old stepdaughter, Sarah Elizabeth Powell, while stealing guns from the Mueller family home.
While Kehoe was sentenced to life in prison, prosecutors sought the death penalty for Lee.
Lee, 47, was set to be the first execution carried out at the federal level since 2003 at the US Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana on Monday.
The executions have been pushed by the Trump administration.
But a court order issued Monday morning by U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan prevented Lee's execution after the family of his victims intervened.
Relatives of the Mueller’s have pleaded for years that Lee should receive the same life sentence as the ringleader in a deadly scheme that aimed to establish a whites-only nation in the Pacific Northwest.
The relatives would be traveling thousands of miles and witnessing the execution in a small room where the social distancing recommended to prevent coronavirus’ spread is virtually impossible.
They demanded a delay until after the pandemic.
Earlene Peterson, Nancy’s mother and Sarah’s grandmother, said in a statement last month: “As a supporter of President Trump, I pray that he will hear my message: the scheduled execution of Danny Lee for the murder of my daughter and granddaughter is not what I want and would bring my family more pain.”
The family’s attorney, Baker Kurrus said the federal government had put the family in “the untenable position of choosing between their right to witness Danny Lee’s execution and their own health and safety.”
However the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the injection, arguing the family had no right under federal law to attend the execution.
Monica Veillette said: “It feels disingenuous to me for someone to say they’re doing this in our family’s name and for us, and no one’s taken into account our well-being and health.”
She said other relatives want to witness the execution to counter the government’s argument that it’s being done on their behalf.
“For us it is a matter of being there and saying, `This is not being done in our name; we do not want this.’”
Attorney General William Barr told The Associated Press last week that it's his duty to carry out sentences imposed by the court system — including the death penalty.
He said the sentences bring a sense of closure to the victims and those in the communities where the killings took place.
Barr said he believes the Bureau of Prisons could “carry out these executions without being at risk" from coronavirus.
The agency has put a number of additional measures in place, including temperature checks and requiring execution witnesses to wear masks.
Lee’s execution would be only the third carried out in the U.S. since March due to concerns about COVID-19.
Missouri executed an inmate in May, and Texas executed a man last week.
Lee’s attorneys have pressed their case that his death sentence is unfair, and cited evidence from his trial that Chevie Kehoe, the alleged ringleader, actually killed Sarah.
Kehoe recruited Lee in 1995 for his white supremacist organization.
Two years later, they were arrested for the killings of the Mueller family.
At their 1999 trial, prosecutors said Kehoe and Lee stole guns, ammunition and $50,000 in cash from the Muellers as part of their plan to establish a whites-only nation.
In May 1999, a jury in the US 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.
He has remained on death row since – and his punishment will be the first federal state execution to take place since 2003.
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