Last year, President Trump announced that he was bringing back executions for federal crimes, and last night, the first such execution since 2003 took place, just hours after the Supreme Court cleared it.
Daniel Lewis Lee, 47, was put to death by lethal injection in Indiana for multiple offenses, including three counts of murder in aid of racketeering in the torture and killings of William Frederick Mueller, his wife Nancy Ann Mueller and his 8-year-old stepdaughter, Sarah Elizabeth Powell. Lee’s last words were to proclaim his innocence. I would urge you not to be swayed by that.
This horrifying crime took place in Arkansas in 1996, six months before I became Governor, but I was intimately familiar with it. As the linked story details, the family’s bodies “were discovered five months after they went missing. They had been shot to death and had plastic bags covering their heads, sealed with duct tape. Their bodies were weighed down by rocks and dumped in the Illinois bayou.”
Lee was an accomplice of the Keyhoe family, a ruthless white supremacist bunch when it meant more than saying something nice about cops. These were evil people. What they did to the Muellers, especially to 8-year-old Sarah, deserved the death penalty.
Bear in mind that I have made it clear that I have never taken the death penalty lightly. I think that anyone who does proves they’ve never been in the shoes of someone who has to give the go-ahead to take someone’s life. I’ve written many times that while it was my sad duty to have to approve executions, and I didn’t consider it my place to substitute my judgment for that of a jury that had sat through a full trial, I always reviewed every scrap of evidence and trial transcripts to ensure that there was no possibility of a miscarriage of justice.
For those arguing against a return of executions for federal crimes, I must warn them that this is not the case they want to use to try to convince the public that it’s unjust and unwarranted.