Daniel Lewis Lee was 'strapped on a gurney for 4 hours' around midnight and executed without counsel present
WASHINGTON, DC: White supremacist Daniel Lewis Lee, who was executed in the early hours of Tuesday, July 14, remained strapped on a gurney for four hours after midnight as the Trump administration sought to lift a court-ordered stay on his death sentence. Lewis' attorney, Ruth Friedman, confirmed the reports in a statement to MEA WorldWide (MEAWW), revealing the details of what happened on Tuesday night to his client.
"It is important for everyone to understand exactly what happened last night to our client, Daniel Lewis Lee. At 2 AM on July 14, while the country was sleeping, the Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision vacating the injunction that had been in place against the first federal execution in 17 years," Friedman of Federal Capital Habeas Project said, adding that media and witnesses were called to the prison in the middle of the night to be present at the execution.
"Within minutes, the Department of Justice moved to re-set Danny Lee's execution – for 4 AM, summoning media and witnesses back to the prison in the very middle of the night," the attorney continued. "When it was brought to the government's attention that a court stay still remained in place, the DOJ first maintained that that stay presented no legal impediment to executing Danny Lee, but then filed an 'emergency' motion to lift the stay."
"Over the four hours it took for this reckless and relentless government to pursue these ends, Daniel Lewis Lee remained strapped to a gurney: a mere 31 minutes after a court of appeals lifted the last impediment to his execution at the federal government's urging, while multiple motions remained pending, and without notice to counsel, he was executed," Friedman added.
“It is shameful that the government saw fit to carry out this execution during a pandemic. 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. 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," Lee's attorney added.
Lee was executed for torturing, killing the Arkansas family in 1996, first federal execution in 17 years. The 47-year-old white supremacist, who tortured and killed an Arkansas family, was executed in Indiana early morning on Tuesday, June 14. He was injected with a lethal dose of pentobarbital at 8:07 AM, just hours after the Supreme Court gave a go-ahead to the Trump administration.
The Trump administration went ahead with the first federal execution in 17 years after the Supreme Court, late on Monday, July 13, reversed the decision of a lower court. A lower federal court in Washington DC had put a halt on all federal executions hours before Lee was set to be given a lethal injection on Monday at Terre Haute prison in Indiana. Shortly after, a federal appeals court in Washington refused Trump administration's plea to intervene, which led the Justice Department to approach the Supreme Court, which voted 5-4 in favor of Lee's execution.
US District Judge Tanya Chutkan, in her halt order, had written: "(B)ecause the public is not served by short-circuiting legitimate judicial process and is greatly served by attempting to ensure that the most serious punishment is imposed in a manner consistent with our Constitution, the court finds that it is in the public interest to issue a preliminary injunction."
The execution date for Lee was set for July 13 by the Justice Department last month, however, some family members of the victims had opposed his execution. The new dates of at least four executions starting mid-July were announced by the federal agency on June 15. After the Supreme Court's ruling on Monday night, Lee's lawyers had insisted that the execution could no go forward after midnight under federal regulations. The top court, with conservatives in the majority, in an unsigned opinion, stated that the prisoners' "executions may proceed as planned." However, the four liberal justices dissented on the opinion. According to court papers, Lee's execution was scheduled for nearly 4:00 AM EDT on Tuesday, July 14.
The Bureau of Prisons had reportedly continued with the preparations for Lee's execution despite lower courts halting the proceedings. Prison officials said that Lee, during this time, has had access to social visitors, has been allowed to receive mail, and has visited his spiritual adviser. Reports state that witnesses for Lee are expected to include three family members, his lawyers, and a spiritual adviser.
Shawn Nolan, one of the attorneys for the men facing federal execution, released a statement on the latest decision and told MEAWW: “The government has been trying to plow forward with these executions despite many unanswered questions about the legality of its new execution protocol. The district court’s injunction ensures that the courts will have the opportunity to carefully address those issues. Given that these executions threaten to become COVID-19 super-spreader events, the injunction will also protect the lives and health of the correctional staff, victim family members, spiritual advisors, attorneys, and others who must witness the executions.”