The U.S. executed its first prisoner in 17 years Tuesday morning.
Daniel Lewis Lee was put to death over two decades after being convicted of slaughtering an Arkansas family, including an eight year old girl. Lee was originally scheduled to be executed Monday afternoon before his death was stayed by a district court. The Supreme Court overruled the lower court early Tuesday morning in a decision that split 5-4 along ideological lines and greenlighted the return of the federal death penalty. (RELATED: Supreme Court Overturns Convictions In New Jersey ‘Bridgegate’ Scandal)
“The plaintiffs in this case are all federal prisoners who have been sentenced to death for murdering children,” the court wrote in an unsigned opinion. “The plaintiffs committed their crimes decades ago and have long exhausted all avenues for direct and collateral review. ”
Justice Stephen Breyer wrote a dissent joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, which called for the high court to revisit the constitutionality of the death penalty.
“Given the finality and seriousness of a death sentence, it is particularly important to ensure that the individuals sentenced to death are guilty, that they received full and fair procedures, and that they do not spend excessively long periods of time on death row,” Breyer wrote. “Courts must also ensure that
executions take place through means that are not inhumane.”
Lee maintained his innocence before he was executed, according to The Indianapolis Star.
Attorney General Bill Barr announced the return of the federal death penalty last year, saying he owed it to the victims’ families to resume executions.
“Under Administrations of both parties, the Department of Justice has sought the death penalty against the worst criminals, including these five murderers, each of whom was convicted by a jury of his peers after a full and fair proceeding. 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,” Barr said.