Judge Halts Execution Over Risk to Families

Relatives of victims filed suit saying they shouldn't have to travel during pandemic
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 10, 2020 5:05 PM CDT
Virus Halts First Federal Execution in 17 Years
Daniel Lee waits for his arraignment hearing in 1997 in Arkansas.   (Dan Pierce/The Courier via AP, File)

(Newser) – Three days before it was scheduled to take place, a federal judge in Indiana on Friday halted the first federal execution planned in 17 years over COVID-19 concerns. Daniel Lee had been scheduled to die by injection on Monday. But Chief District Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson in Indiana ruled that the execution would be put on hold, the AP reports, because the family of the victims wanted to attend but were afraid of traveling during the coronavirus pandemic. Prisons are being ravaged by COVID-19. The injunction delays the execution until there is no longer such an emergency.

Relatives of the victims filed a lawsuit on Tuesday, per Newsweek, saying that having to decide whether to travel to witness the execution during a pandemic put them in "an untenable position." Lee, 47, of Yukon, Oklahoma, was convicted in Arkansas of the 1996 killings of gun dealer William Mueller; his wife, Nancy; and her 8-year-old daughter, Sarah Powell. The relatives of the victims had pleaded for years that Lee instead should receive the same life sentence as the ringleader in the deadly scheme. (The US Supreme Court had declined last month to block four federal executions.)

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