A federal judge in Washington, DC, suspended all pending federal executions, including one scheduled for Monday afternoon.
In a 22-page order, United States District Judge Tanya Chutkan rebuked the government for allegedly trying to speed up the process by setting short execution dates that did not allow several inmates to fully litigate their appeals.
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“[B]Because the public is not served by a short-circuited legitimate judicial process, and is very helpful in trying to ensure that the heaviest punishment is imposed in a manner consistent with our Constitution, the court finds it in the public interest to issue a court order preliminary, “wrote Chutkan.
Daniel Lee, who was sentenced to death for the 1996 murders of an arms dealer, the dealer’s wife and their 8-year-old daughter in Arkansas, was scheduled to be executed Monday at 4 p.m. in the first federal execution in nearly Two decades. A federal appeals court ruled Sunday that the execution could proceed as scheduled, reversing an order of a lower court that had delayed execution over concerns about the coronavirus. The families of the victims had argued that they should be able to be present for the execution, but cited details and concerns about the location and its staff, a member of the Bureau of Prisons staff involved in preparing for the execution tested positive for the coronavirus.
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Attorney General William Barr has 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 implemented a number of additional measures, including temperature controls and requiring witnesses to wear masks.
Monday morning’s ruling blocks Sunday’s ruling, and Chutkan noted the rapid development of the situation.
“The succession of last-minute rulings is the result of the government’s decision to establish short execution dates, even though many claims, including those dealt with here, were pending,” the judge wrote. “The government has the right to choose dates, but the court cannot shortcut its obligations to accommodate those dates. As the Seventh Circuit wrote last week, ‘just because the death penalty is involved is no reason to take shortcuts, of done, it’s a reason not to. “
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In addition, Monday’s ruling ends other executions, including those of Dustin Lee Honken, who was scheduled for Wednesday, and Wesley Ira Purkey, who was due to be executed on Friday.
The ruling is likely to bring another round of quick appeals from the government to allow executions to continue.
In addition to the suspension of executions on Monday morning, the relatives of the victims filed an appeal with the US Supreme Court to prevent Lee from being executed on Monday afternoon, again citing concerns about the related coronavirus. with travel.
Bradford Betz and The Associated Press of Fox News contributed to this report.