On Sunday, the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh District authorized the first federal execution in seven years. Daniel Lewis Lee, a white supremacist who killed a family of three in 1996, was sentenced to be executed by lethal injection on Monday.
However, an eleventh-hour appeal has stayed the execution for now. U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan ruled that four federal inmates could have their executions delayed due to their claims that the method of execution is inhumane.
According to Chutkan, the four federal inmates have taken issue with the use of pentobarbital, a single drug often used in executions. The drug causes interference with the lung before stopping a person’s heart. Scientists have explained that this can lead to a sensation as though one is drowning, leading to extreme terror and panic in the moments before death.
The Death Penalty
Administering the death penalty to convicted criminals is a very politically and morally charged subject. In truth, there is no humane, moral way to kill a living creature. Nearly all methods incur some form of fear, terror, or panic from the person being killed.
Even if this is not the case, someone has to administer the method of execution, which, in and of itself, presents a unique set of horrors. While many people think of lethal injection as a “humane” way to execute prisoners, this isn’t actually the case.
Research holds that injecting someone with a barbiturate that will stop their heart will also interfere with their breathing, and will cause a burning sensation throughout their veins. The process would feel like fire spreading within ones body, paralyzing the muscles, and stopping the lungs.
After moments of agony, the heart would be stopped. This is hardly a gentle and peaceful process, and the four inmates scheduled for execution have taken exception to it.
Oddly, the federal inmates have requested their execution be performed by firing squads instead of lethal injection. However, the family of Daniel Lewis Lee’s victims has asked that the convicted murderer not be executed.
On multiple occasions, they have implored the justice system to simply keep the man imprisoned.
“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 told reporters. The victims’ family has asked that the execution be delayed so that they can safely attend the execution, because they would feel unsafe attending in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.