US carries out the 1st federal execution in nearly 2 decades; Honken execution scheduled for Friday

FILE - In this March 17, 2003 file photo, guard towers and razor wire ring the compound at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind., the site of the last federal execution. AP photo

The Trump administration was moving ahead early Tuesday with the execution of the first federal prison inmate in 17 years after a divided Supreme Court reversed lower courts and ruled federal executions could proceed.

Posted: Jul 14, 2020 6:41 AM
Updated: Jul 14, 2020 7:54 AM

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) — The U.S. government on Tuesday carried out the first federal execution in almost two decades, putting to death a man who was convicted of killing an Arkansas family in a 1990s plot to build a whites-only nation in the Pacific Northwest. The execution came over the objection of the victims’ family.

Daniel Lewis Lee, 47, of Yukon, Oklahoma, died by lethal injection at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.

“I didn’t do it," Lee said just before he was executed. "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.”

Two more executions are scheduled this week, though one, Wesley Ira Purkey, was on hold in a separate legal claim. Dustin Lee Honken's execution was scheduled for on Friday.

Honken was convicted of killing five people in north Iowa, including multiple children.

Read more on the Dustin Honken case here. 

Honken was involved in one of North Iowa’s most well-publicized murder cases and was found guilty of five counts of murder in 2004.

The bodies were found buried in a wooded area in 2003 near where the current Cerro Gordo Co. Law Enforcement Center sits.

Honken killed Lori Ann Duncan, her daughters Kandace and Amber Duncan, Gregory Nicholson and Terry DeGeus during a federal meth investigation. The two children were kidnapped from Mason City.

DeGeus and Nicholson were two of Honken’s former methamphetamine dealers who agreed to cooperate with agents investigating Honken’s multistate operation.

The decision to move forward with the execution -- the first by the Bureau of Prisons since 2003 -- drew scrutiny from civil rights groups and the relatives of Lee’s victims, who had sued to try to halt it, citing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic has killed more than 135,000 people in the United States and is ravaging prisons nationwide.

Critics argued that the government was creating an unnecessary and manufactured urgency for political gain.

“The government has been trying to plow forward with these executions despite many unanswered questions about the legality of its new execution protocol,” said Shawn Nolan, one of the attorneys for the men facing federal execution.

The developments are likely to add a new front to the national conversation about criminal justice reform in the lead-up to the 2020 elections.

The execution of Lee, who was pronounced dead at 8:07 a.m. EDT, went off after a series of legal volleys that ended when the Supreme Court stepped in early Tuesday in a 5-4 ruling and allowed it to move forward.

Attorney General William Barr has said the Justice Department has a duty to carry out the sentences imposed by the courts, including the death penalty, and to bring a sense of closure to the victims and those in the communities where the killings happened.

But relatives of those killed by Lee in 1996 strongly opposed that idea and long argued that Lee deserved a sentence of life in prison. They wanted to be present to counter any contention that the execution was being done on their behalf.

“For us it is a matter of being there and saying, 'This is not being done in our name; we do not want this,’” relative Monica Veillette said.

They noted that Lee’s co-defendant and the reputed ringleader, Chevie Kehoe, received a life sentence.

Kehoe, of Colville, Washington, recruited Lee in 1995 to join his white supremacist orgaization, known as the Aryan Peoples’ Republic. Two years later, they were arrested for the killings of gun dealer William Mueller, his wife, Nancy, and her 8-year-old daughter, Sarah Powell, in Tilly, Arkansas, about 75 miles (120 kilometers) northwest of Little Rock.

At their 1999 trial, prosecutors said Kehoe and Lee stole guns and $50,000 in cash from the Muellers as part of their plan to establish a whites-only nation.

Prosecutors said Lee and Kehoe incapacitated the Muellers and questioned Sarah about where they could find money and ammunition. Then, they used stun guns on the victims, sealed trash bags with duct tape on their heads to suffocate them, taped rocks to their bodies and dumped them in a nearby bayou.

A U.S. District Court judge put a hold on Lee’s execution on Monday, over concerns from death row inmates on how executions were to be carried out, and an appeals court upheld it, but the high court overturned it. That delay came after an appeals court on Sunday overturned a hold that had been put in place last week after the victims’ relatives argued they would be put at high risk for the coronavirus if they had to travel to attend the execution.

Lee's execution was then set to happen at 4 a.m. EDT, but a last-minute legal question was raised by his lawyers. The Justice Department said in a statement it filed a request with the court to straighten it out but went through with the execution.

A U.S. Marshal lifted a black telephone inside the execution room -- a small square room inside the prison with green tiles and windows looking at the witness rooms -- and asked if there was anything to impede the execution. He said there was not and the execution could proceed.

Lee had a pulse oximeter on a finger of his left hand, and his arms, which had tattoos, were in black restraints. The IV tubes were coming through a metal panel in the wall.

He breathed heavily before the drug was injected and moved his legs and feet. As the drug was being administered, he raised his head to look around. In a few moments, his chest was no longer moving.

Lee was in the execution chamber with two men who the Bureau of Prisons would only identify as “senior BOP officials,” a U.S. Marshal and his spiritual adviser, who a Bureau of Prisons spokesperson described as an “Appalachian pagan minister.” They did not wear masks and Lee was also not wearing a mask.

One of the senior Prison officials in the room declared Lee’s time of death at 8:07 a.m., and the curtain closed.

Two other federal executions are scheduled for later this week, though one remains on hold in a separate legal claim.

There have been two state executions in the U.S. since the pandemic forced shutdowns nationwide in mid-March — one in Texas and one in Missouri, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Alabama carried out one in early March.

Executions on the federal level have been rare, and the government has put to death only three defendants since restoring the federal death penalty in 1988 — most recently in 2003, when Louis Jones was executed for the 1995 kidnapping, rape and murder of a young female soldier.

Though there hadn’t been a federal execution since 2003, the Justice Department has continued to approve death penalty prosecutions and federal courts have sentenced defendants to death.

In 2014, following a botched state execution in Oklahoma, President Barack Obama directed the Justice Department to conduct a broad review of capital punishment and issues surrounding lethal injection drugs.

The attorney general said last July that the Obama-era review had been completed, clearing the way for executions to resume. He approved a new procedure for lethal injections that replaces the three-drug combination previously used in federal executions with one drug, pentobarbital. This is similar to the procedure used in several states, including Georgia, Missouri and Texas, but not all.

Numbers of state executions have fallen steadily since the last federal execution, according to data compiled by the Death Penalty Information Center. States put to death 59 people in 2004 and 22 in 2019, nine of which were in Texas.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 61839

Reported Deaths: 1707
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin19569839
Ramsey7717268
Dakota4507106
Anoka3752115
Stearns290920
Washington216345
Nobles17686
Olmsted176723
Scott159020
Mower11052
Rice10388
Blue Earth9325
Wright8975
Carver8783
Clay78840
Sherburne7328
Kandiyohi7021
St. Louis57319
Todd4292
Lyon4253
Freeborn3601
Steele3512
Nicollet34713
Watonwan3230
Benton3203
Winona26416
Beltrami2440
Crow Wing23814
Le Sueur2261
Martin2095
Chisago2041
McLeod2020
Goodhue1999
Otter Tail1983
Cottonwood1780
Becker1611
Pipestone1589
Polk1554
Waseca1490
Itasca14612
Douglas1441
Carlton1420
Unassigned13141
Dodge1290
Isanti1290
Pine1290
Murray1241
Chippewa1071
Morrison931
Wabasha930
Brown892
Faribault890
Meeker872
Rock850
Sibley842
Koochiching793
Jackson790
Pennington751
Cass742
Mille Lacs723
Fillmore670
Renville665
Lincoln580
Grant563
Swift551
Yellow Medicine520
Roseau520
Pope480
Houston420
Aitkin411
Norman400
Kanabec371
Redwood360
Hubbard350
Wilkin343
Marshall290
Wadena270
Mahnomen271
Red Lake240
Big Stone220
Lake210
Stevens180
Clearwater140
Traverse110
Lac qui Parle80
Cook50
Lake of the Woods40
Kittson30

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 49380

Reported Deaths: 942
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk10444208
Woodbury373452
Black Hawk315766
Linn242888
Johnson211819
Dallas189835
Buena Vista179412
Scott174314
Dubuque169831
Marshall145026
Pottawattamie133228
Story117315
Wapello90533
Muscatine85148
Webster8268
Crawford7313
Sioux6433
Cerro Gordo63417
Warren5721
Tama55429
Jasper48127
Wright4751
Plymouth47011
Clinton4164
Dickinson3844
Louisa37814
Washington30510
Boone2623
Hamilton2511
Franklin24512
Bremer2307
Clarke2043
Clay2011
Carroll1942
Emmet1934
Des Moines1872
Shelby1861
Hardin1840
Marion1750
Poweshiek1608
Benton1601
Floyd1582
Allamakee1564
Jackson1561
Mahaska14217
Guthrie1355
Cedar1341
Jones1332
Buchanan1291
Henry1274
Madison1252
Butler1252
Hancock1212
Lee1183
Humboldt1181
Pocahontas1172
Delaware1171
Lyon1152
Harrison1101
Cherokee1101
Clayton1063
Taylor1000
Winneshiek971
Iowa971
Page950
Monona910
Kossuth900
Mills890
Palo Alto880
Jefferson870
Calhoun862
Winnebago860
Sac860
Fayette850
Osceola840
Grundy801
Mitchell790
Cass791
Union781
Monroe748
Lucas734
Worth670
Davis612
Montgomery604
Chickasaw550
Appanoose513
Howard500
Fremont430
Greene430
Keokuk371
Van Buren361
Ida310
Adair300
Audubon291
Decatur250
Ringgold231
Wayne201
Adams160
Unassigned10
Rochester
Scattered Clouds
66° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 66°
Mason City
Clear
71° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 71°
Albert Lea
Broken Clouds
70° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 70°
Austin
Overcast
70° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 70°
Charles City
Overcast
70° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 70°
More rain chances to finish off the work week
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

MSHSL releases guidelines for fall training sessions

Image

Hagedorn Introduces Livestock Relief Bill

Image

A Closer Look at Boating Safety

Image

Funding child care during the work week

Image

Rochester leaders consider their successors

Image

Sara's 10pm Forecast - Wednesday

Image

Sara;s 6pm Forecast - Wednesday

Image

Clear Lake school projects

Image

Mower County Fair Virtual Tour

Image

Racial Equality for Civic Engagement

Community Events