The government of Donald Trump prepares for Monday the resumption of executions federal interrupted for 17 years, despite the strong opposition expressed by relatives of the victims, the faith community and the european Union.
Unless the court grants him a reprieve at the last minute, Daniel Lee, 47 years old, will receive a lethal injection of pentobarbital in the room of death in the penitentiary of Terre-Haute, Indiana (north).
A former proponent of white supremacy, he was convicted in 1999 of the death penalty for the murder of a couple and a little girl of eight years.
Saying “act on behalf of the public and families,” the republican administration has scheduled two more executions this week, and a fourth on the 28th of August. All of them men sentenced to the death penalty by federal courts for the murder of children.
In the United States, most crimes are tried at the state level, but the federal justice department can get a handle on of the most serious acts (terrorist attacks, hate crimes, etc.) or committed on military bases, between several States or in indian reservations.
Over the past 45 years, only three people have been executed at the federal level, including Timothy McVeigh responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing (168 dead in 1995) in 2001. The last federal execution dates back to 2003.
To the general surprise, the minister of Justice Bill Barr has, however, announced a year ago its intention to reconnect with this practice. After a series of twists and turns judicial, it was set in June of the calendar, at a time when cases of novel coronavirus were picking up in large parts of the country.
However, an execution involves many people: “the staff at the penitentiary, lawyers, relatives of the victims or of the accused, journalists, a chaplain…” lists for the AFP Robert Dunham, the director of the Centre for information on the death penalty (DPIC), which refers on the subject.
“It is irresponsible to want to conduct as many operations in so little time” in this context of a health crisis, he said, denouncing a “political manipulation of the death penalty”.
According to polls, support for the death penalty has eroded in america but remains strong among republican voters, which are 77% to be favourable to the murderers.
To his supporters, Donald Trump, who hopes to win a second term on 3 November, claiming regularly, with increased use of this ultimate sanction, in particular for the killers of police officers or drug dealers.
“No more pain “
At the approach of maturity, the calls are however multiplied to as the tenant of the White House to show leniency to Daniel Lee.
“As a supporter of the president Trump, I pray that you hear my message: the execution of Danny Lee to the murder of my daughter and my granddaughter is not what I want and will bring more pain to my family,” said Earlene Peterson, mother of Nancy Mueller, who was murdered in 1996, in an open letter to billionaire new yorkers.
Another man who had played a central role in the murders has been sentenced to a life imprisonment, has pointed out this woman of 81 years: “We believe that this is what Mr. Lee deserves it.”
In parallel, with other members of the family, she brought an action in court to obtain a postponement of the execution. Citing their vulnerability to the new coronavirus, they have pleaded that they were in an impossible choice between their right to attend the last moments of the convicted person and the respect of their health.
A court of first instance gave them reason Friday night, but an appeals court seizure injunction quashed the decision Sunday. In the process, they have referred the matter to the supreme Court, which must decide in an emergency.
Lawyers for Mr. Lee, have also lodged applications procedures, the outcome of which is still pending.
On their side, in a thousand religious leaders, catholics and evangelicals, have called on the president to “focus on the protection of the life and not on executions” in these times of COVID-19.
And Friday, the european Union has asked him to “reconsider” a position that, according to it, “goes against a general trend in the United States and in the world to abolish the death penalty, by law or in practice”.
In fact, “only” 22 executions have taken place in 2019 in the United States and seven since the beginning of the year.