Earlene Peterson has issued a statement urging Donald Trump not to execute Danny Lee July 13 for the murders of her daughter and granddaughter.
She wants Lee to serve life in prison, the sentence given Chevie Kehoe for the same crimes.
“As a supporter of President Trump, I pray that he will hear my message: the scheduled execution of Danny Lee for the murder of my daughter and granddaughter is not what I want and would bring my family more pain. We don’t want Danny Lee to be executed. We feel Mr. Lee’s execution would dishonor the memory of my daughter Nancy Ann and my granddaughter Sarah Elizabeth, who was killed when she was only eight years old. The man who actually killed my granddaughter – when Danny Lee refused to do so – has been sentenced to life, not death, and that’s what we think Mr. Lee deserves, too. The Attorney General has said the government owes it to the victims and their families to carry out federal executions like Mr. Lee’s. Please take our family’s feelings into consideration and grant clemency to Mr. Lee. Thank you and God Bless You.”
Peterson made the video above last fall.
Attorney General William Barr in moving ahead with several executions this summer has said he acted for families of victims.
In a prepared release, Peterson said, “The government is not doing this for me.”
The release continues:
Mrs. Peterson’s daughter, Kimma Gurel, and granddaughter, Monica Veillette, join her plea to President Trump to commute Danny Lee’s death sentence and they have submitted letters in support of Mr. Lee’s executive clemency request (see letter from Kimma Gurel here: https://tinyurl.com/y33kc5oz; and from Monica Veillette here: https://tinyurl.com/y36bwuu5).
Notably, both the federal prosecutor who tried the Kehoe and Lee cases and the federal judge who presided over their trial have also stated that Mr. Lee’s death sentence is unfair (see letter from federal prosecutor here: https://tinyurl.com/yyqa2ln2; and from federal judge here: https://tinyurl.com/y4xl3afx). In fact, two different federal judges – both appointed by Republican presidents – have found that Mr. Lee’s death sentence is marked by constitutional error, but have concluded that procedural barriers prevent them from overturning it.
The government presented evidence at trial that Danny Lee and another man, Chevie Kehoe, were responsible for the deaths of Mrs. Peterson’s daughter, Nancy Mueller, and her son-in-law William Mueller, and that Kehoe was solely responsible for the death of her eight-year-old granddaughter, Sarah Powell. In the video, Mrs. Peterson recalls that at the two men’s joint trial, the evidence showed that Mr. Kehoe was the mastermind behind the plan to rob and murder her family. The government went on to tell the jurors that it was also Kehoe who killed Sarah Powell after Danny Lee refused to kill a child. Given these facts, Mrs. Peterson wonders, “who is the worst man?”
Mrs. Peterson also recalls the stark difference in the two defendants’ appearances; Mr. Kehoe looked clean cut, “like a young businessman,” while Danny Lee had a swastika tattoo on his neck and one blind eye, making him look frightening, “like an outlaw.” Mrs. Peterson acknowledges that this led her, and others she believes, to prejudge him. Mr. Lee long ago renounced the skinhead groups he joined as a youth.
The government had sought the death penalty against both defendants, and after their conviction, Mr. Kehoe’s sentencing was first. The jury came back with a life-without-parole sentence for him. After that verdict, Mrs. Peterson and her family were approached by the Assistant United States Attorneys prosecuting the case and agreed that a life sentence would be fair and just for Danny Lee, as well, but Department of Justice officials in Washington, D.C., insisted that the capital sentencing hearing proceed.
The government presented misleading evidence to argue that Mr. Lee would be dangerous in the future, relying on a scientific test that is now known to be invalid and on a false claim that Mr. Lee had committed a prior murder. The jury sentenced Danny Lee to death.
Mrs. Peterson hopes that President Trump will listen to her plea and commute Mr. Lee’s sentence to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. “I believe he should give Daniel Lee clemency,” Mrs. Peterson says. “That would help me, and my family, more than anything.”