US Government Rushes to Execute First Prisoners in Almost Two Decades in Spite of Serious Constitutional Concerns
After almost two decades, the federal government executed its first death row prisoners in July when it put Daniel Lee Lewis and Wesley Purkey to death. In doing so, the Department of Justice took the irregular act of seeking emergency orders from the US Supreme Court to rush through two very controversial executions, where federal courts had put blocks in place for very specific reasons, and one court had even concluded that the administration’s chosen lethal injection procedures most likely violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment because those executed would most likely experience an excruciating pain akin to drowning when used.
Daniel Lee Lewis
In the case of Daniel Lee Lewis, the Justice Department also still had to overcome an existing federal court order halting the execution. To do so, it decided to file an emergency motion, leaving Mr. Lee strapped to a gurney with IV lines in his arms at 4am in the morning for four hours. Once this was done, with a number of motions and appeals still pending and without notice to his counsel, they executed Mr. Lee, with media accounts suggesting that he did not die immediately and could very well have potentially suffered due to the procedures used.
They also did so in spite of the victims’ family members, the judge, and prosecutor not only opposing Lee’s execution, but the victims’ family filing a lawsuit regarding COVID-19-related concerns associated with attending, and US Supreme Court Justice Breyer pointing out that Lee’s death sentence was arbitrarily imposed, as his co-defendant—described by the government as the individual who was actually responsible for the homicide—was sentenced to life in prison instead of death. According to media accounts, Lee’s last words were that he was innocent, and that he and his co-defendant were in another location at the time of the crime, as proven by DNA evidence.
Following another emergency request, the Supreme Court then cleared the way for the next inmate, Wesley Purkey, to be executed. Purkey suffered from severe mental illness, schizophrenia, and dementia, and a federal court had ordered that a competency test first be performed before any execution was allowed, as the court also suspected that he was incompetent, which would have rendered his execution unconstitutional. In fact, there are accounts that Purkey thought he was being executed because he made too many complaints about prison conditions.
If You Face Criminal Charges, It Is Imperative That You Work with The Strongest Defense Representation Possible
Florida unfortunately leads the country in wrongful death penalty convictions, and there are currently 339 inmates currently awaiting execution. According to some sources, almost 30 percent of those on death row have been exonerated due to DNA evidence, prosecutorial misconduct, or other new evidence discovered.
In the case of Daniel Lee Lewis, there are strong arguments that Lee’s trial counsel was inadequate, and failed to challenge testimony that ultimately led to his death sentence. This is why it is absolutely crucial to work with the most effective defense representation from the beginning of a case.
If you or a loved one is facing charges, contact the Orlando criminal defense lawyers at The Baez Law Firm for a free consultation to find out about our zealous representation and how hard we fight for our clients’ rights.