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Daniel Lewis Lee, 47, was injected with a lethal dose of pentobarbital at 8:07 a.m., just hours after the Supreme Court greenlighted the first federal execution to take place since 2003.
In this Oct. 31 1997, file photo, Daniel Lewis Lee waits for his arraignment hearing for murder in the Pope County Detention Center in Russellville, Ark. (Dan Pierce/The Courier via AP, File)
The slayings happened in 1996 after Lee and an accomplice robbed and shot William Frederick Mueller, his wife Nancy Ann Mueller and his 8-year-old stepdaughter, Sarah Elizabeth Powell in Arkansas.
Mueller was a local gun dealer and the bodies of him and his family were discovered five months after they went missing, with plastic bags covering their heads and sealed with duct tape, dumped in the Illinois bayou.
Back and forth legal proceedings stalled the execution at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana several times.
Hours before he was slated to die, the Supreme Court in a 5-4 vote overruled a lower courts order to delay four executions scheduled for July and August.
Judge Tanya Chutkan of the U.S. district court in Washington had issued the preliminary injunction against the executions citing issues with the lethal injection methods used by the government, but the Supreme Court disagreed.
“The government has produced competing expert testimony of its own, indicating that any pulmonary edema occurs only after the prisoner has died or been rendered fully insensate,” the Supreme Court said in their ruling.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit also overturned an injunction put in place last week by a district court after the family of the victims said the coronavirus would pose a health risk to them and prevent them from exercising their right to attend the execution at the prison, where several people have been infected with COVID-19.
Attorneys for Lee and members of the victim’s family have long fought for Lee to get a life sentence and not be put to death but to no avail.
Attorney General William Barr told The Associated Press in recent days that he believes the Bureau of Prisons could “carry out these executions without being at risk.”
The agency has put a number of additional measures in place, including temperature checks and requiring witnesses to wear masks.
The execution is the first after the Trump administration announced last year it would be making a return back to capital punishment methods.
Two more executions are scheduled this week, Wesley Ira Purkey on Wednesday and Dustin Lee Honken on Friday.
A fourth man, Keith Dwayne Nelson, is scheduled to be executed in August.