The Department of Justice has scheduled executions for five federal inmates in December and January, including Daniel Lewis Lee, convicted in 1999 of murdering a family in Pope County, Arkansas. The executions are to be the first by the U.S. government since 2003.
Lee’s execution, set for Dec. 9, is to be the first of the five and was ordered by U.S. Attorney General William Barr to adopt an addendum to the Federal Execution Protocol.
Lee was convicted of the 1996 murders of William Mueller, 53, his wife Nancy Mueller, 28, and her daughter Sarah Powell, 8, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas. Prosecutors accused Lee of robbing Mueller and attacking he and his family with a stun gun before drowning them in a bayou near Russellville.
The murders were connected to a conspiracy led by Chevie Kehoe to establish a nation for whites in the Pacific Northwest using money and weapons acquired from the family. Kehoe is serving three consecutive life sentences in connection with the murders.
"Congress has expressly authorized the death penalty through legislation adopted by the people’s representatives in both houses of Congress and signed by the President," Barr said in a statement. "Under Administrations of both parties, the Department of Justice has sought the death penalty against the worst criminals, including these five murderers, each of whom was convicted by a jury of his peers after a full and fair proceeding. The Justice Department upholds the rule of law – And we owe it to the victims and their families to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system."
U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, issued a statement praising the action.
Most Americans have always believed that the death penalty is a just response to the most heinous crimes. I commend the president and Attorney General Barr for reinstating the federal death penalty in order to carry out sentences imposed on five brutal murderers by juries of their peers. After many years of unnecessary delay, justice will soon be done for these criminals’ many victims, including the Mueller family of Tilly, Arkansas.
The executions are to be carried out using one drug, pentobarbital, rather than a previous three-drug protocol. The procedure is designed to resemble that used by some states, including Georgia, Missouri and Texas. Executions had been on hold since 2014 following direction by President Barack Obama to review issues surrounding lethal injections.
The other four inmates who have been scheduled to die are Lezmond Mitchell, Wesley Ira Purkey, Alfred Bourgeois and Dustin Lee Honken. According to the Justice Department, all inmates have exhausted their appeals and should be executed without further delay. The department said more executions will eventually be scheduled.