Attorney General William P. Barr on Tuesday defended the first federal execution in more than 17 years after the Supreme Court issued a last-minute opinion in the middle of the night, allowing the killing to proceed.
Mr. Barr’s statement comes after attorneys and supporters of the executed inmate — including his victims’ family — blasted the Trump administration for hastily carrying out the execution while most of the country was sleeping.
Daniel Lewis Lee, a white supremacist convicted of killing a family of three, including an eight-year-old girl, in 1996, was executed Tuesday morning at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana. He was pronounced dead at 8:07 a.m., the Bureau of Prisons said.
“Today, Lee finally faced the justice he deserved,” Mr. Barr said. “The American people have made the considered choice to permit capital punishment for the most egregious federal crimes, and justice was done today in implementing the sentence for Lee’s horrific offense..”
Lee’s attorney, Ruth Friedman, slammed the Trump administration saying the government rushed to kill her client rather than wait out last-minute federal appeals.
Lee was killed just hours after the Supreme Court issued an opinion around 2 a.m. overruling a lower court’s decision to delay the first federal execution since 2003.
In an unsigned 5-4 opinion, the court’s conservative majority held that the lethal injection protocols adopted by the Justice Department last year do not amount to “cruel and unusual punishment.” The court also said appeals based on those protocols were unlikely to succeed.
Ms. Friedman, Lee’s attorney, said the Supreme Court issuing a decision in the middle of the night was “beyond shameful.”
She said that Lee remained strapped to a gurney for four hours while they awaited action from the Supreme Court. And the late hour decision robbed Lee of having his counsel with him.
“It is shameful that the government saw fit to carry out this execution when counsel for Danny Lee could not be present with him, and when the judges in his case and even the family of his victims urged against it,” Ms. Friedman said in a statement. “And it is beyond shameful that the government, in the end, carried out this execution in haste, in the middle of the night, while the country was sleeping.”
“We hope that upon awakening, the country will be as outraged as we are,” she said.
But Justice Department spokesperson Kerri Kupec said the additional delay was due to a last-minute court filing by Lee’s lawyers. She said prison officials needed to wait for the federal appellate court to reject their claims.
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