According to CNN, Daniel Lewis Lee, a professed white supremacist, was executed early Tuesday morning, marking the first federal execution in 17 years.
“I didn’t do it,” Lee said as he took his last breath. “I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life, but I’m not a murderer. You’re killing an innocent man.”
Lee was convicted of murdering a family of three in 1996. The convicted killer was scheduled for the death penalty on Monday, but federal judge Tanya Chutkan delayed the execution along with three others due to the questionable procedure.
The judge referred to the government’s use of pentobarbital during executions as unconstitutional, stating that it “poses an unconstitutionally significant risk of serious pain.”
Pentobarbital is a short-acting tranquilizer that causes death by respiratory arrest when used in high doses.
Evidence from other inmates’ execution, who received the controlled substance, indicates signs “flash pulmonary edema,” Chutkan said. During the procedure, inmates experience trouble breathing and sensations of strangulation and drowning.
Inmates argue that the protocol used to carry out the executions violates their rights not to have “cruel and unusual punishment inflicted,” according to BBC News.
The judge halted execution orders until legal issues regarding the procedures were resolved.
Trump administration appealed the judge’s order to a higher court, requesting to proceed with the death penalty.
On Monday, the Supreme Court gathered in an overnight court session where they voted 5-4 in Trump’s favor, allowing Lee’s execution to move forward.
FOX News reported that Lee was pronounced dead at 8:07 a.m. Tuesday after he was lethally injected with pentobarbital.
Trump administration’s decision to proceed with executions despite the questionable procedure amidst a global pandemic resulted in scrutiny from civil rights groups, as well as the family of Lee’s victims, who did not support the defendant’s execution.
Protesters rallied throughout the city of Terre Haute on Monday with signs that read, “Stop executions now!”
Family members of Lee’s victims also expressed their disapproval of the execution. They added that it is not worth the risk of being exposed to the coronavirus.
81-year-old Earlene Peterson, whose daughter, granddaughter, and son-in-law were murdered by Lee, said she would rather the defendant serve life in jail.
“This not being done in our name; we do not want this,” relative Monica Veillette said.