Supreme Court Refuses to Block Federal Executions
WASHINGTON – A divided Supreme Court on Monday refused to block the execution of four federal prison inmates — executions that will mark the first use of the death penalty on the federal level in nearly 20 years.
A majority of justices declined to hear an appeal from four inmates, all of whom were convicted of killing children.
But two justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, said they would have stopped the executions from going forward.
The inmates, who are scheduled to be put to death in July and August, have separately asked a federal judge in Washington to impose a new delay in their executions over legal issues that have yet to be resolved in their cases.
Attorney General William Barr first announced the federal government would resume executions last year, ending an informal moratorium on federal capital punishment that had been in place since 2003.
He also directed the federal Bureau of Prisons to schedule the executions of the four inmates.
Addressing the cases last month, Barr said, “The American people, acting through Congress and presidents of both political parties, have long instructed that defendants convicted of the most heinous crimes should be subject to a sentence of death.
“The four murderers whose executions are scheduled today have received full and fair proceedings under our Constitution and laws. We owe it to the victims of these horrific crimes, and to the families left behind, to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system,” he said.
The inmates scheduled for execution are: Danny Lee, who was convicted in Arkansas of killing a family of three, including an 8-year-old; Wesley Ira Purkey, of Kansas, who raped and murdered a 16-year-old girl and killed an 80-year-old woman; Dustin Lee Honken, who killed five people in Iowa, including two children; and Keith Dwayne Nelson, who kidnapped a 10-year-old girl who was rollerblading in front of her Kansas home and raped her in a forest behind a church before strangling the young girl with a wire.
Three of the executions — for Lee, Purkley and Honken — are scheduled days apart beginning July 13. Nelson’s execution is scheduled for Aug. 28.
The Justice Department said additional executions will be set at a later date.
There are currently 62 inmates on death row at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, the facility where federal executions are carried out by lethal injection.
Among those most recently executed at the prison in Terre Haute were Timothy McVeigh and drug kingpin Juan Raul Garza in 2001, and Louis Jones, Jr., who was convicted of sex assault and murder in 2003.
McVeigh, who was convicted for his responsibility for the Oklahoma City bombing, was the first prisoner executed by the U.S. Government since the formal moratorium on the death penalty was lifted in 1976.
Among those currently awaiting execution in Terre Haute is Dylann Roof, the White supremacist convicted in 2016 for killing nine parishioners at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.
In The News
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected an effort by former President Donald Trump to shield his income tax records from N.Y. prosecutors. The court’s action is the apparent culmination of a lengthy legal battle that had already reached the high court once before.... Read More
WASHINGTON - The White House on Wednesday informed the Supreme Court it believes the Affordable Care Act should be upheld, reversing the position taken by the Trump Administration. The justices heard oral arguments in November in multiple cases involving a group of Republican-led states attempting to... Read More
WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a pair of emoluments lawsuits against former President Donald Trump, ruling the cases are moot now that he's left office. The lawsuits were filed by the attorneys general for Maryland and Washington, D.C., and the government watchdog, Citizens... Read More
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Supreme Court lifted a nationwide injunction Tuesday that had prevented the federal government from enforcing a rule that required women to see a health care professional in person before she'd be given access to a so-called abortion pill. The Food and Drug... Read More
WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed a challenge to President Donald Trump's plan to exclude people living in the country illegally from the population count as premature. Trump's insistence that illegal immigrants be excluded from the count could profoundly impact the number of seats... Read More
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court agreed Wednesday to decide whether major colleges and universities are violating federal antitrust laws by refusing to pay the football and basketball players who bring in hundreds of millions of dollars to their campuses. The National Collegiate Athletic Association and several... Read More