The first man executed by the US federal government in 17 years protested his innocence in his final words before his sentence was carried out on Tuesday.
Asked if he wanted to give a final statement before the lethal injection procedure, Lee reportedly said “I bear no responsibility for the deaths of the Mueller family.”
Accusing a judge of ignoring DNA evidence that he claimed would have exonerated him, he reiterated that “I didn’t do it. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life but I’m not a murderer.”
His final words were: “You’re killing an innocent man.”
Daniel Lewis Lee, 47, was executed by lethal injection on Tuesday at a US penitentiary in Indiana. A self-confessed white supremacist, he was convicted of the 1996 murders of three people in Arkansas, and his legal representatives had appealed against his death sentence on various grounds for more than two decades.
Lee’s execution was delayed on Monday by a US District Court judge, who ruled that pending federal executions could not be carried out while challenges against the government’s lethal injection protocol were still underway.
However, the Supreme Court overturned the ruling the next day, saying that the inmates appealing against the protocol had not demonstrated that they were likely to succeed in their case.
After Lee was finally put to death, his attorney, Ruth Friedman, decried not just the execution itself but the circumstances in which it came about.
“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.”
The next federal execution scheduled after Lee’s has already been delayed after a ruling from the same judge whose order the Supreme Court overturned. This time, the issue is that the prisoner, Wesley Ira Purkey, is suffering from dementia and poor mental health and therefore cannot understand the reasons for his execution.