Updated Jul 14, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Federal government carries out first execution since 2003

Lethal injection facility
Lethal injection facility in San Quentin, California. Photo: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation via Getty Images

The first execution carried out by the federal government since 2003 took place on Tuesday at a federal prison in Indiana after an early-morning Supreme Court decision allowed it to move forward, the Washington Post reports.

The big picture: A lower court had delayed the execution, saying inmates had provided evidence the government's plan to carry out executions using lethal injections "poses an unconstitutionally significant risk of serious pain."

Daniel Lewis Lee was a former white supremacist who was convicted in 1999 for robbing and murdering a family of three, including an 8-year-old girl. His execution was originally scheduled to take place on Dec. 9, 2019, but has been held up in court.

  • Three family members of the victims sought this month to delay the execution because traveling across the country to attend would put them at risk of contracting the coronavirus. 
  • Lee was pronounced dead at 8:07 a.m. on Tuesday.
  • "I've made a lot of mistakes in my life but I’m not a murderer. ... You’re killing an innocent man," he said in a final statement.

The big picture: Attorney General Bill Barr instructed the Federal Bureau of Prisons to reinstate the death penalty last year after a 17-year informal moratorium, which was first established so the Justice Department could review its lethal injection protocols.

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