The federal government is due to execute its first inmate in 17 years after a court said it didn't need to pause due to COVID-19

·2 min read
Oklahoma execution chamber
An execution chamber in Oklahoma.

Sue Ogrocki/AP

  • Barring a last minute order from the Supreme Court, the first federal inmate in 17 years is due to be executed on Monday. 

  • Daniel Lewis Lee, 47, was convicted in the 1996 murders of a family of three in Arkansas. 

  • His execution was postponed on Friday because of the coronavirus pandemic, but an appeals court overruled that decision. 

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After initially getting postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the first federal execution in nearly two decades is again due to take place on Monday. 

Daniel Lewis Lee, 47, is scheduled to be put to death Monday afternoon at the US Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana. 

He was convicted in the 1996 murders of William Mueller, his wife, Nancy, and her 8-year-old daughter, Sarah Powell. 

Family members of the victims had initially petitioned the courts to delay the execution, saying it would be too dangerous for them to travel the prison during a pandemic. There have been coronavirus cases at the prison where Lee is being held. 

Chief District Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson sided with the family on Friday, ruling that the execution should be postponed.

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But the Justice Department appealed the decision, and an appeals court on Sunday overruled the earlier decision, saying the execution should go on as scheduled, according to the Associated Press

The 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals said the argument made by the victims' family does not have "any arguable legal basis and is therefore frivolous." 

The family is appealing to the Supreme Court, which has until 4 p.m. to weigh in, according to The New York Times

The effort to get the execution postponed is being led by 81-year-old Earlene Peterson, the mother and grandmother respectively of Nancy Mueller and Sarah Powell. 

Peterson has long opposed Lee's execution. 

"Yes, Daniel Lee damaged my life, but I can't believe taking his life is going to change any of that," Peterson said in September, according to CBS News.

"I can't see how executing Daniel Lee will honor my daughter in any way. In fact, it kinda, like, dirties her name because she wouldn't want it and I don't want it. That's not the way it should be."

If the execution takes place, Lee will be the first federal inmate to be put to death in 17 years, as a result of the Trump administration's decision last year to resume federal executions. 

Louis Jones was the last federal inmate to be executed, back in 2003. Jones was convicted of kidnapping and murdering female soldier Tracie Joy McBride in November 1995.

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