The New York Times reports on objections to the first scheduled federal execution in 20 years, a sentenced handed down in an Arkansas murder case.
Daniel Lewis Lee is scheduled to die in early December for his conviction, along with another white supremacist, for the slaying of a husband, wife and eight-year-old daughter in rural Pope County in the course of an attempted robbery.
Attorney General William Barr said the case must go forward for the victims. But Campbell Robertson reports:
As much as anyone, Earlene Branch Peterson, who lost her daughter Nancy and granddaughter Sarah in those murders, is the kind of person Mr. Barr was talking about. Now 80, and a conservative Trump supporter who lives in the Ozarks, she has come to a firm conviction about what she is owed and not owed.
“Please,” she said. “Don’t put Daniel Lee to death.”
Peterson’s surviving daughter agrees. Her granddaughter has pleaded for years for commutation of Lee’s death sentence. Scott Mueller, whose father, William Mueller, was killed, told the Times: “It don’t really matter to me whether they kill him or not.”
Dan Stripling, the lead prosecutor, in 2014, wrote Attorney General Eric Holder about his concerns about the “randomness” of imposition of the death penalty. Federal Judge G. Thomas Eisele wrote Holder in 2015 that he had second-guessed his decision and finally decided “justice was not served in this particular case, solely with regard to the sentence of death imposed on Daniel Lewis Lee.”
The problem isn’t innocence. Those opposing Lee’s execution are motivated by the fact that the perceived ringleader of the crime, Chevy Kehoe, got a life sentence rather than the death penalty. According to testimony in the trial, it was Kehoe, for example, not Lee, who killed the child. He apparently presented a better appearance in court than Lee. Public defenders aren’t seeking Lee’s release, just commutation of his death penalty.