Opinion| Steven Ahle| Daniel Lewis Lee, a known white supremacist, was lethally injected at 8:07 a.m. EDT this morning.
The execution followed an early-morning 5-4 Supreme Court decision that lifted a lower-court ban on Lee’s execution, as well as two others on death row who are scheduled for execution later this week.
Lee, 47, was found guilty of a gruesome murder in 1996 where he and other members of the Aryan Peoples’ Republic, a violent white supremacist group, killed William Mueller, his wife Nancy, and their 8-year-old daughter, Sarah Powell.
Prosecutors say the murders were done while stealing $50,000 in cash and weapons from the Muellers to support the murders whites-only nation campaign.
Opposition groups argued that the execution was politically motivated and that the execution carried a threat of spreading the COVID-19 virus, given the groups that attend the procedures.
Lee’s lawyers, Ruth Friedman, called it “shameful that the government saw fit to carry out this execution during a pandemic…And it is beyond shameful that the government, in the end, carried out this execution in haste.”
A legal volley involving Federal district and appeals courts, the Department of Justice, and the Supreme Court lasted throughout the night, with last-ditch efforts at delaying Lee’s execution, which was scheduled for 4:00 a.m.
The final decision to move forward with the execution was made by the Supreme Court early Tuesday morning.
Lee’s execution, and the likely executions to soon follow, are likely talking points for the upcoming 2020 election.
Lee, 47, of Yukon, Oklahoma, professed his innocence just before he was executed at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.
“I didn’t do it,” Lee said. “I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life, but I’m not a murderer.”
His final words were: “You’re killing an innocent man.”
The decision to move forward with the first execution by the Bureau of Prisons since 2003 — and two others scheduled later in the week — drew scrutiny from civil rights groups and the relatives of Lee’s victims, who had sued to try to halt it, citing concerns about the pandemic.