The United States Supreme Court has given the go-ahead for the first federal executions in the country since 2003.
Judge Tanya Chutkan of the US district court in Washington had suspended the scheduled executions on Monday in order to give room for legal challenges to the lethal injection that was to be used.
Chutkan’s order came less than seven hours before former white supremacist Daniel Lewis Lee, who was convicted along with another man of murdering a family of three during a robbery intended to help fund the founding of an “Aryan Peoples Republic”, was scheduled to be executed.
The prisoners “have not made the showing required to justify last-minute intervention by a Federal Court”, the Supreme Court said in a ruling released in the early hours of Tuesday.
“We vacate the District Court’s preliminary injunction so that the… executions may proceed as planned.”
Attorney General William Barr originally scheduled five executions for last December, but was ordered to delay them by Chutkan while long-running lawsuits challenging the government’s lethal-injection protocol played out.
In staying the executions, Chutkan ruled that the use of a single drug, pentobarbital, to carry out the executions could cause “extreme pain and needless suffering” and may violate a constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
Lee would be the first federal inmate to be executed in the US since 2003 and the first since President Donald Trump announced plans to resume federal executions.
There have been just three federal executions since the death penalty was reinstated in 1988.
Lee and another man, Chevie Kehoe, were convicted in Arkansas in 1999 of the 1996 murders of gun dealer William Mueller, his wife, and her eight-year-old daughter.
According to prosecutors, the pair robbed Mueller to steal guns that they planned to sell to finance the founding of a white supremacist “Aryan Peoples Republic” in the Pacific Northwest.
Lee, who has since renounced his white supremacist beliefs according to his lawyers, was sentenced to death while Kehoe received three life sentences without the possibility of parole.
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