(Reuters) – The first federal execution in 17 years is set to go ahead on Monday after a U.S. appeals court overturned a lower court injunction, saying a lawsuit by the victims’ family that had put the execution on hold had no legal standing.
Daniel Lewis Lee, convicted of killing three members of an Arkansas family in 1996, is due to be put to death by lethal injection at the U.S. Justice Department’s execution chamber in Terre Haute, Indiana.
His execution had been blocked on Friday by a federal judge after some of the victims’ relatives sued, saying they feared that attending could expose them to COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
The lawsuit filed against the Justice Department in federal court in Indianapolis sought to block the execution until the pandemic had passed. U.S. District Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson ordered the department to delay the execution until it could show it was upholding the plaintiffs’ right to attend the execution without risking their health.
The government appealed and on Sunday, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the injunction, saying no federal statute or regulation gave the victims the right to attend the execution.
Lee’s scheduled death is one of four federal executions that had been scheduled for July and August. All four men had been convicted of killing children.
(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Peter Cooney)