The US Supreme Court on Tuesday authorized the resumption of federal executions in the United States after 17 years of interruption, by canceling the suspension of four executions decided the day before by a court in Washington.
The convicts did not take the necessary steps to justify the last minute intervention of a federal court, according to a decision of the Supreme Court published early Tuesday. We are quashing the preliminary injunction of the District Court and the executions can take place as planned.
The Supreme Court had been seized by the Department of Justice which had been rejected by a court of appeal of Washington, after a decision of a federal judge suspending the executions after last minute appeals.
Federal executions of death row inmates, halted since 2003, were to resume on Monday at the instigation of the Donald Trump government.
In the United States, most crimes are tried in the states, but the federal courts can deal with the most serious acts (terrorist attacks, racist crimes, etc.) or committed on military bases, between several states or on native reserves.
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 in 2001. The last federal execution dates back to 2003.
Federal judge Tanya Chutkan agreed on Monday morning with lawyers for Daniel Lee, who was to be executed in the afternoon by lethal injection at Terre-Haute, Indiana penitentiary and three other men who were to die in ‘by the end of August.
The Washington Court of Appeal, seized by the Justice Department, had then confirmed on Monday the suspension of the four executions at least until next week, until the parties present their arguments in writing.
The four were sentenced to death by federal courts for the murder of children.
Former supporter of white supremacy, Daniel Lee, 47, was sentenced to death in 1999 for the murder of a couple and their 8-year-old girl.
The condemned say that the execution protocol – a lethal dose of pentobarbital – would cause them irreparable suffering in violation of the Constitution, an argument often used by opponents of the death penalty.
The mother of two victims, Earlene Peterson, 81, also seized the Supreme Court on Monday with other family members to obtain the postponement of the execution of Daniel Lee because of the COVID-19 pandemic.