The Supreme Court cleared the way for federal executions to resume early Tuesday, just hours before a man convicted of killing a family of three was scheduled to die. The 5-4 opinion, issued around 2am, determined inmates had "not made the showing required to justify last-minute intervention," per the Washington Post. On Monday, US District Judge Tanya Chutkan of the District of Columbia had blocked the Justice Department from carrying out the first federal executions since 2003, arguing legal challenges should be heard in court. Chutkan had also blocked executions in December, though the court of appeals later gave the green light. Early Tuesday, Supreme Court justices wrote that last-minute stays "should be the extreme exception, not the norm." The opinion was issued shortly before Daniel Lewis Lee was scheduled to die by lethal injection at a federal penitentiary in Indiana.
It's unclear if the execution was carried out as planned around 4am, per Reuters. Lee was convicted in 1999 of murdering an 8-year-old girl and her parents in Arkansas. But even the lead prosecutor and federal judge in the case disagreed with the execution. They described Lee as a follower of white supremacist Chevie Kehoe, who received a life sentence for the same crime. Relatives of one of the victims had sought to delay Lee's execution until it was safe for them to travel to the prison. They cited personal health issues amid the pandemic. But the Justice Department said it was not required to consider "the availability and travel preferences" of those wishing to attend. Wesley Purkey, convicted of raping and killing a teenager in Missouri in 2003, and Dustin Lee Honken, convicted of killing five people in Iowa in 2004, are scheduled to be executed on Wednesday and Friday, respectively. (Read more US Supreme Court stories.)