A U.S. district judge issued a halt on all federal executions on Monday, hours before the scheduled lethal injection of an inmate in Indiana.
The Trump administration has attempted to restart executions on the federal level after a 17-year pause. Judge Tanya Chutkan of the D.C. Circuit Court issued the latest delay, writing in her opinion that “at least one” of the plaintiffs’ claims in the case “has a likelihood of success on the merits.”
“Because the public is not served by short-circuiting legitimate judicial process, and is greatly served by attempting to ensure that the most serious punishment is imposed in a manner consistent with our Constitution, the court finds that it is in the public interest to issue a preliminary injunction,” Chutkan wrote.
The execution of Daniel Lewis Lee was scheduled for Monday afternoon. Lee was convicted in 1996 of killing a family of three, including an eight-year-old child.
The federal government reinstated the death penalty in 1988, however only three inmates have been executed under federal authority since then, including Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. Attorney General William Barr announced in July 2019 that the U.S. would resume executions at the federal level.
“Under administrations of both parties, the Department of Justice has sought the death penalty against the worst criminals,” Barr said at the time. “The Justice Department upholds the rule of law — and we owe it to the victims and their families to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system.”
In June of this year, Barr announced the scheduling of four executions of federal inmates who had been convicted of murdering children.