First federal execution in nearly 2 decades carried out in Indiana

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TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — The first federal execution in nearly two decades was carried out Tuesday in Indiana.

Daniel Lewis Lee, 47, of Yukon, Oklahoma, was pronounced dead at 8:07 a.m. ET by the Vigo County coroner.

Lee was convicted in Arkansas of the 1996 killings of gun dealer William Mueller; his wife, Nancy, and her 8-year-old daughter, Sarah Powell.

“I didn’t do it,” Lee said just before he was executed. “I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life, but I’m not a murderer.

His last words were: “You’re killing an innocent man.”

He had been scheduled to receive a lethal dose of the sedative pentobarbital at 4 p.m. EDT Monday, but a court order issued Monday morning by U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan prevented Lee’s execution.

A federal appeals court in Washington refused the administration’s plea to step in, leaving the hold in place before the Supreme Court acted by a 5-4 ruling and allowed the execution to move forward. The execution was set to resume at 4 a.m. Tuesday.

The Department of Justice issued a written statement explaining the delay in the execution.

“A couple of hours ago, Mr. Lee’s counsel raised for the very first time a technical legal issue challenging our ability to go forward with the execution,” according to the statement. “Specifically, his counsel claimed that even though that court had issued a decision several weeks ago vacating the stay issued by a district court in Arkansas.”

The DOJ said that out of an “abundance of caution,” they filed an emergency motion to expedite the issuance of a mandate” and awaited a final court ruling before proceeding.

Prior to his execution, Lee had access to social visitors, visited with his spiritual adviser and had been allowed to receive mail, prison officials said.

The witnesses for Lee were expected to include three family members, his lawyers and spiritual adviser.

Two more executions are scheduled this week, though one, Wesley Ira Purkey, was on hold in a separate legal claim. Dustin Lee Honken’s execution was scheduled for Friday.
A fourth man, Keith Dwayne Nelson, is scheduled to be executed in August.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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