This week, the U.S. federal government resumed executions after a 17 year hiatus at the national level.
A total of five men were given execution dates for this summer, and thus far, two have been carried out. As expected, there have been many procedural, constitutional, and ethical issues surrounding the cases.
Though the government claimed these executions were to be carried out in the name of the victims’ families, the victims’ family members of Daniel Lewis Lee were adamant and vocal in their disapproval of the death penalty from the very beginning. They made numerous attempts to speak out and have their voices respected. Ultimately, they were not even able to be at the execution due to COVID-19 concerns – thus having this last dignity also taken from them by the administration.
Lee’s execution transpired in the early morning hours of Tuesday. He had been strapped to the gurney for hours as courts decided whether or not he could actually be executed. Only a few members of the media were allowed to be present, and were even sent home at one point before being called back. Though his death warrant had expired Monday night when the clock struck midnight, the courts still allowed his execution to move forward. There are many outstanding questions about the legality of this action.
Wesley Purkey was executed in a similar manner in the early morning hours of Thursday this week. Purkey was diagnosed with schizophrenia and early onset dementia.
There is little hope that the next three executions scheduled will be stopped, just as there is no evidence that indicates these deaths will be a deterrent to crime, make any American safer, or bring healing for the family members involved in the cases. Instead, these events are transpiring in the middle of a global pandemic as a piece of security theater. They are playing politics with American lives, and we’re all losing.