With federal executions scheduled to resume next week after a nearly two-decade halt, relatives of some victims and spiritual advisers for the condemned have called for a delay because they say it is unsafe for them to attend during the coronavirus pandemic, reports the Washington Post. The victims’ relatives are among those allowed to witness the execution of Daniel Lewis Lee, scheduled for Monday. In 1999, Lee and another man were convicted of murdering a family of three. Three of their relatives called Tuesday for the execution to be delayed, arguing there “is no legitimate reason” to carry it out amid the health crisis.
They added their voices to a volley of court filings and public calls — including one from hundreds of faith leaders also released Tuesday — seeking to postpone or cancel scheduled federal executions. Three are scheduled next week, and a fourth for late August. In all four cases, the condemned inmates were convicted of murdering children. The Justice Department says their executions must proceed without further delay.
Mueller’s relatives are seeking to join a lawsuit by a Buddhist priest and spiritual adviser to Wesley Purkey, scheduled for execution two days after Lee. The lawsuit by the Rev. Seigen Hartkemeyer, 68, says that Hartkemeyer has health problems and calls for Purkey’s lethal injection to be postponed. It argues that Hartkemeyer could be endangered if he attends, so having the execution means he “must decide whether to risk his own life in order to exercise his religious obligations to be present.” The Justice Department said it was taking “extensive” precautions to protect witnesses including him, such as providing protective equipment and spacing at the prison. The Department said postponing because of COVID-19 could “indefinitely delay” the execution.