The government of Donald Trump prepares Monday for the resumption of federal executions interrupted for 17 years, despite the strong opposition expressed by relatives of the victims, religious circles and the European Union.
Unless justice grants him a respite at the last minute, Daniel Lee, 47, will receive a lethal injection of pentobarbital in the death chamber of the Terre-Haute penitentiary in Indiana (north).
A former supporter of white supremacy, he was sentenced to death in 1999 for the murder of a couple and an eight-year-old girl.
Saying “act on behalf of the public and families“The Republican administration has scheduled two more executions this week, and a fourth one on August 28. All of them involve men sentenced to death by federal courts for the murder of children.
In the United States, most crimes are tried at the state level, but the federal justice can deal with the most serious acts (terrorist attacks, racist crimes …) or committed on military bases, between several states or in Native American reservations.
In the past 45 years, only three people have been executed at the federal level, including Timothy McVeigh, who was responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing (168 dead in 1995) in 2001. The last federal execution dates back to 2003.
To everyone’s surprise, Minister of Justice Bill Barr announced a year ago that he intended to return to this practice. After a series of judicial twists and turns, he set the schedule in June, just as cases of new coronavirus were on the rise in much of the country.
However, an execution involves many people: “penitentiary staff, lawyers, relatives of victims or accused, journalists, a chaplain …“, lists for AFP Robert Dunham, the director of the Information Center on the Death Penalty (DPIC) who makes reference on the subject.
This is “irresponsible for wanting to carry out so many executions in such a short time“in this context of health crisis, he adds, denouncing a”political instrumentalization of capital punishment“.
According to polls, support for the death penalty has eroded among Americans but remains strong among Republican voters who are 77% in favor of it for murderers.
In front of his supporters, Donald Trump, who hopes to win a second term on November 3, regularly calls for a reinforced use of this ultimate sanction, especially for police killers or drug traffickers.
“No more pain”
As the deadline approached, calls were multiplied, however, for the tenant of the White House to show mercy towards Daniel Lee.
“As a supporter of President Trump, I pray that he will hear my message: the execution of Danny Lee for the murder of my daughter and granddaughter is not what I want and will bring more pain to my family“said Earlene Peterson, mother of Nancy Mueller, murdered in 1996, in an open letter to the New York billionaire.
Another man who played a central role in the murders received only a life sentence, said the 81-year-old woman: “We think that’s what Mr. Lee deserves.“
In parallel, with other family members, she brought a legal action to obtain a postponement of the execution. Citing their vulnerability to the new coronavirus, they argued that they were in an impossible choice between their right to attend the last moments of the convicted person and respect for their health.
A court of first instance agreed with them Friday evening, but a court of appeal seized in summary procedure overturned the decision Sunday. In the process, they seized the Supreme Court, which will have to decide urgently.
Counsel for Mr. Lee have also brought procedural requests, the outcome of which is also pending.
For their part, a thousand religious leaders, Catholic and evangelical, called on the president to “focus on protecting life, not executions“in these times of Covid-19.
And Friday the European Union asked him to “reconsider“a position which, according to her,”goes against a general trend in the United States and around the world to abolish the death penalty, by law or in practice“.
Fact, “alone“22 executions took place in 2019 in the United States and seven since the beginning of the year.