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United States Government Resumes Imposition of the Death Penalty After a Pause of 17 Years

On July 14th, 47 year old Daniel Lewis Lee, a former white supremacist was put to death by lethal injection in Indiana. Lee’s fate was ultimately decided due to a 5-to-4 vote within the Supreme Court, and is being criticized by the public for how rushed his capital punishment was handled. Lee was pronounced dead at 8:07 a.m, protesting his innocence of the crimes he was convicted of to the very end. These crimes consisted of Lee murdering a family of three which included an 8-year old child. The murders took place in Arkansas of 1996, yet Lee had maintained for years that he was innocent and was not responsible for the deaths of the Mueller family.

After a pause of 17 years, the Federal government has decided to resume use of the Death Penalty. Approximately half the States in this country have ceased administering the Death Penalty. Views on whether executing prisoners still vary amongst the public, some viewing it as barbaric, while others see it as a way to seek justice for their lost loved ones. In this case, the family of Lee’s victims had urged the government to give Lee a life sentence in prison without the possibility of parole. The victims’ family did not seek the death penalty for Daniel Lewis Lee in their name, yet their voices were left unheard, and Lee was put to death despite efforts against it.

Due to the current pandemic, Lee’s case was mishandled and rushed. A new drug is being used for lethal injection, because of the failures of previous deadly concoctions. Lee claimed there was DNA evidence that could have proven his innocence, but was overlooked by the judge. Lack of any additional DNA evidence, as well as proof being withheld by the prosecution, has proved to be an issue for years within the justice system. Because of such error, prisoners are often left with convictions of heinous crimes they simply did not commit. Though it is not certain, Daniel Lewis Lee could have been an innocent man whose life was taken due to faults within our legal system.

Lee’s execution was the first since 2003 to be carried out by the federal government. There are currently 62 inmates being held on federal Death Row as capital punishments are being brought back. Here In Oregon, the death penalty law was narrowed by the legislature in 2019, and Oregon has not executed any prisoner in over 20 years. Lee’s case cries out for further insight into the question of whether cases are being handled correctly and fairly, to prevent manifest injustice and cruelty.

The United States stands alone among modern democracies in continuing to administer the Death Penalty. Those who are executed are predominantly poor, racial minorities, ill-educated, and mentally disturbed. In a more enlightened future, it can be hoped that our nation will no longer kill people in order to make the point that killing is wrong.

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