- The Washington Times
Friday, July 17, 2020

The U.S. government Friday carried out its third execution this week, killing Dustin Lee Honken, a drug kingpin who killed five people in Iowa in 1993.

He was pronounced dead at 4:36 p.m at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, the Bureau of Prisons said in a statement.

As his last words, Honken recited a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ, an English poet and Jesuit Priest.

This week marks the first time the government has killed three people since 1942. Until this week, no federal inmates had been executed since 2003.

Honken, 52, was sentenced to death in 2005 for killing five people whom he thought threatened his methamphetamine empire. Among those he killed were his girlfriend and her two daughters, aged 10 and six.

His attorney, Shawn Nolan, said Honken had redeemed himself while in prison, repenting for his crimes.

“During his time in prison, he cared for everyone he came into contact with: guards, counselors, medical staff, his fellow inmates and his legal team,” Mr. Nolan said in a statement.

“There was no reason for the government to kill him, in haste or at all. In any case, they failed. The Dustin Honken they wanted to kill is long gone. The man they killed today was a human being, who could have spent the rest of his days helping others and further redeeming himself,” the statement continued.

Several anti-death penalty activists and supporters spoke out against Honken’s execution, including Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, New Jersey.

Cardinal Tobin called on President Trump to commute Honken’s sentence to life without parole. He had known Honken for seven years.

“There is no doubt that the crimes for which he was convicted are heinous,” Cardinal Tobin wrote in a letter to the president. “However, killing Mr. Honken will do nothing to restore justice or heal those still burdened by these crimes. Instead, his execution will reduce the government of the United States to the level of a murderer.”

He also said Honken “tries to show solace for his companions on death row.

Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec called Honken’s execution a “just punishment.”

“Nearly three decades after Honken coldly ended the lives of five people, including two young girls, all in an effort to protect himself and his criminal enterprise, he has finally faced justice,” she said.

Honken and his legal team had tried to delay his execution by raising an objection to the drugs used to carry out lethal injection. A federal court rejected their argument earlier this week.

Earlier this week, the government executed Wesley Ira Purkey and Daniel Lewis Lee. Both men, who were convicted of killing children, were the first inmates to be executed in 17 years.

It is exceedingly rare for the government to execute more than one inmate in a week, but it has happened.

In July 1938, murderer bank robber Anthony Chebatoris and kidnapper Henry Seadlund were put to death six days apart.

On Aug. 8, 1942, six men were executed by the federal government for espionage and attempted sabotage for Nazi Germany. They were killed by electrocution.

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