The Latest: Judge blocks federal executions; administration will appeal

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TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP/WTWO/WAWV) – A U.S. district judge on Monday ordered a new delay in federal executions, hours before the first lethal injection was scheduled to be carried out at a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.

The administration is certain to ask a higher court to allow the executions to move forward.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan said there are still legal issues to resolve and that “the public is not served by short-circuiting legitimate judicial process.” The executions, pushed by the Trump administration, would be the first carried out at the federal level since 2003.

The new hold on executions came a day after a federal appeals court lifted a hold on the execution of Daniel Lewis Lee, of Yukon, Oklahoma, which was scheduled for 4 p.m. EDT on Monday at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Lee was convicted in Arkansas of the 1996 killings of gun dealer William Mueller, his wife, Nancy, and her 8-year-old daughter, Sarah Powell.

His victims’ family members and a Catholic Bishop were among local, state and national groups who gathered Monday at press conference to denounce the executions.

“The timing of these execution dates and the insistence on going forward despite the pandemic leads us to conclude that these executions are nothing more than a political stunt intended to stoke the political base of Donald Trump as he runs for re-election,” Abraham Bonowitz, co-director of Death Penalty Action, a national organization mobilizing opposition to federal executions, said. “They say this is for the victim’s families when the victims family in the case of Daniel Lee have begged the president to show mercy on their behalf. How tone-deaf can they be? We can do better for murder victim family members, be safe from dangerous individuals and hold them accountable without wasting taxpayer dollars on a system fraught with disparity and error.” 

The press conference was still going on when they learned the executions had once again been halted.

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