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US carries out the 1st federal execution in nearly 2 decades

Updated: July 14, 2020 02:05 PM

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) -  The federal government has carried out its first execution in almost two decades, killing by lethal injection a man convicted of murdering an Arkansas family in a 1990s plot to build a whites-only nation in the Pacific Northwest.

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Forty-seven-year-old Daniel Lewis Lee, of Yukon, Oklahoma, died Tuesday at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Lee's last words were: "You're killing an innocent man." Lee is the first death row inmate to be executed since 2003.

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The developments are likely to add a new front to the national conversation about criminal justice reform in the lead-up to the 2020 elections.

The execution of Lee, who died at 8:07 a.m. EDT, went off after a series of legal volleys that ended when the Supreme Court stepped in early Tuesday in a 5-4 ruling and allowed it to move forward.

Lee's execution came over the objection of the victims' family and following a series of delays and legal challenges related to the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision to move forward with the execution -- the first by the Bureau of Prisons since 2003 -- drew scrutiny from civil rights groups and the relatives of Lee's victims, who had sued to try to halt it, citing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

The pandemic has killed more than 135,000 people in the United States and is ravaging prisons nationwide.

Critics argued that the government was creating an unnecessary and manufactured urgency for political gain.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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