Obama-Appointed Judge Blocks U.S. from Resuming Federal Executions

TERRE HAUTE, INDIANA - JULY 25: A truck is used to patrol the grounds of the Federal Correctional Complex Terre Haute on July 25, 2019 in Terre Haute, Indiana. Today U.S. Attorney William Barr announced that the federal government would resume executing prisoners after a two-year hiatus.The first five are …
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A federal judge blocked the Trump administration from resuming executions hours before the first federal death since 2003 was scheduled to take place.

“Judge Tanya Chutkan on Monday ordered a preliminary injunction against the government while the courts hear a legal challenge from four death row inmates against the administration’s new execution protocols announced last summer,” according to the Hill.

Chutkan, who was appointed to the federal district court in Washington, DC, by former President Barack Obama, ruled that the protocol likely violated the Eighth Amendment’s ban on “cruel and unusual punishment,” the article read.

The report continued:

The ruling is the second injunction Chutkan has issued in the case. A similar order from last November that found the new protocols likely violated federal death penalty laws was overturned by an appeals court and the Supreme Court declined to hear the case. The Department of Justice has already filed a notice with the court saying it intends to appeal Chutkan’s new ruling, and asked her to stay her decision.

The ruling came just before convicted murderer Daniel Lewis Lee was scheduled to be executed at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, according to the Indianapolis Star.

Lee murdered an Arkansas family of three, including an eight-year-old girl, in January of 1996.

“After robbing and shooting the victims with a stun gun, Lee covered their heads with plastic bags, sealed the bags with duct tape, weighed down each victim with rocks, and threw the family of three into the Illinois Bayou in Arkansas,” the Star article noted.

Previously, Lee and others appealed their executions and argued that the lethal injection method would present “substantial risk of harm” and result in unconstitutionally cruel punishment, adding that there were alternatives to reduce the risk of pain, the report continued.

In her opinion Monday, Chutkan said there were still legal issues surrounding the execution protocols that higher courts had not considered.

She wrote:

The last-minute nature of this ruling is unfortunate, but no fault of the Plaintiffs. The succession of last-minute rulings is the result of the Government’s decision to set short execution dates even as many claims, including those addressed here, were pending. The Government is entitled to choose dates, but the court cannot take short cuts in its obligations in order to accommodate those dates.

Because the public was “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,” she stated.

In a statement last month, 81-year-old Earlene Peterson, the mother and grandmother of two of Lee’s victims, argued that Lee’s co-defendant was the ringleader the day of the murders.

She said because the co-defendant received a life sentence, Lee should get the same.

“As a supporter of President Trump, I pray that he will hear my message: the scheduled execution of Danny Lee for the murder of my daughter and granddaughter is not what I want and would bring my family more pain,” Peterson wrote.

“We don’t want Danny Lee to be executed,” she concluded.

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