A federal appeals court has lifted an injunction that temporarily blocked the first federal execution scheduled since 2003.
The Sunday ruling from the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a Friday decision from a lower court that put a hold on the execution of 47-year-old Daniel Lewis Lee. The former white supremacist, who was convicted in 1999 for the 1996 robbing and murder of an Arkansas family of three, is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Monday, which the appeals court said can now proceed.
The family of the victims, Nancy Mueller and Sarah Powell, argued last week that there was “no legitimate reason” for Lee’s execution to continue as scheduled due to the coronavirus outbreaks in prisons, adding that they would have to risk their lives to attend. Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson in Indiana then approved an injunction blocking the execution. The Department of Justice, however, immediately filed an appeal to the decision.
The appeals court found that the family’s claim “lacks any arguable legal basis and is therefore frivolous” despite a Department of Justice official indicating in a court filing that a staff member involved in preparations for the execution has tested positive for the coronavirus. The department said, however, that the worker has not been in the execution chamber or in contact with any members of the team set to handle Lee’s death.
The family plans to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court in hopes that Lee will be given a life sentence in prison instead.
Attorney General William Barr instructed the Federal Bureau of Prisons to reinstate the federal death penalty last year after a 17-year hiatus. Lee was originally scheduled to die in December 2019, but his execution has been held up in court.
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