Daniel Lewis Lee, 47, was scheduled to be executed today at the Federal Correctional Institute in Terre Haute, Ind., in what would have been the first federal execution in almost two decades. Lee was convicted in three counts of murder in aid of racketeering, a federal crime.
Multiple family members of Lee’s victims, including Earlene Peterson, who lost both her daughter and granddaughter in the crime for which Lee was convicted, oppose the execution.
They believe Lee’s co-defendant, Chevie Kehoe, who was the mastermind behind the crime and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, was the more culpable one and that Lee’s sentence should match Kehoe’s.
Despite this opposition, Peterson and other family members had planned to travel to Terre Haute to witness the execution, but had to rethink those plans because they are at high risk of serious illness if they contract COVID-19. The witness room is not designed for social distancing, and attendees would have to sit close together. For this reason, they had filed legal papers to halt the execution until there is a vaccine or treatment available for COVID-19.
Late Friday evening, Chief Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson of the Southern District of Indiana ordered the execution to be delayed until the Bureau of Prisons can show “reasonable consideration” for the right of the victims’ family members to be present. Yesterday an appellate court overruled the judge and allowed the execution to proceed. And today, a U.S. District Court judge in Washington intervened putting the execution of Lee on hold once again.
Lee is one of four men whose executions have been scheduled by Attorney General William Barr’s Department of Justice and publicly praised by President Donald Trump, a longtime advocate of capital punishment.
4 – Number of federal executions scheduled by US Attorney General William Barr
17 – Number of years since the last federal execution
2,620 – Number of people on death row in all U.S. prisons
62 – Number on federal death row
143 – Number on death row in North Carolina prisons
14 – Years since North Carolina executed someone
1996 – The year Lee and his co-defendant, who was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, committed the murders
3 – Number of family members of Lee’s victims who publicly oppose the execution
2019 – First year since 1985 that a majority of Americans surveyed said they preferred life without parole over the death penalty as a punishment for murder
60 – Percent of Americans who prefer life without parole to the death penalty as a punishment for murder
56 – Percent of Americans who broadly favor using the death penalty for convicted murderers, a percentage which has been steadily declining since the mid-1990s
57,019 – Number of people in U.S. prisons who have tested positive for COVID-19, as of July 7
651 – Number of people in U.S. prisons who have died from COVID-19
7,639 – Number of people in federal prisons who have tested positive for COVID-19
98 – Number of people in federal prisons who have died from COVID-19
9 – Number of people incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institute in Terre Haute who have tested positive for COVID, one of whom has died, as of June 29
13 – Number of correctional institutions to which more than 1,000 COVID-19 cases have been connected