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Supreme Court rejects inmates' appeal, keeps federal executions on track

Greg Stohr, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Supreme Court put President Donald Trump's administration on track to resume federal executions as soon as July 13, rejecting an appeal by inmates who challenged the lethal injection protocol the government plans to use.

Over two dissents, the justices left intact a lower court decision backing the administration's plan for carrying out the first federal executions since 2003. The Justice Department scheduled four in July and August, all of men convicted of murdering children.

The inmates said the protocol violates a 1994 law that requires the U.S. government to conduct executions "in the manner" required by the state where the sentence was imposed. The inmates said that law requires the U.S. to follow the state's procedures, including its rules governing the drugs that are used and the qualifications of the people administering the injection.

The Trump administration said the law merely requires the federal government to use the same method of execution, such as lethal injection. A federal appeals court sided with the administration on a 2-1 vote.

Daniel Lewis Lee is scheduled to be the first to die, on July 13. He was convicted of taking part in the 1998 killing of an Arkansas family of three, including an 8-year-old girl, as part of what prosecutors said was a rampage geared toward setting up a whites-only nation.

Two other inmates are scheduled to die later that week, and the fourth execution is set for Aug. 28. The inmates are still pressing other arguments before a federal trial judge in Washington.

 

More than 60 people are currently on federal death row. Only three people have been executed for federal crimes since the U.S. death penalty was reinstated in 1988.

Although lethal injection is the primary method in every state that conducts executions, states use different combinations of drugs. The U.S. is planning to use a single drug, pentobarbital sodium, for all its injections.

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