A new lawsuit was filed today in Indianapolis to delay the execution of Daniel Lee, scheduled to die next week for his 1999 conviction in the murder of three people in Arkansas.
A portion of a news release about the latest development:
Arguing that the federal government is placing them in the untenable position of choosing between their right to witness Daniel Lee’s execution and their lives and health, family members of Mr. Lee’s victims filed a lawsuit today seeking to block his July 13 execution.
The plaintiffs, Earlene Branch Peterson, Kimma Gurel, and Monica Veillette, asked the U.S. District Court in Indianapolis to delay Mr. Lee’s execution due to the COVID-19 pandemic that is ravaging the federal prison population, including at the United States Penitentiary in Terre Haute where the execution is scheduled to take place. They argue that they are medically vulnerable, so that traveling from their homes in Washington State and Arkansas and attending the execution would place them at grave risk of life-threatening complications from COVID-19.
The new filing, Motion to Intervene as Plaintiffs, can be accessed here: https://tinyurl.com/yd6vv6jm
The family is represented as plaintiffs in today’s filing by Arkansas attorney Baker Kurrus.
“There is no legitimate reason for [the Government] to go forward with Mr. Lee’s execution on July 13, 2020 as opposed to a later date,” the complaint asserts. (Motion to Intervene as Plaintiffs, p. 2) The plaintiffs presented the claim the government has violated the Administrative Procedures Act by arbitrarily and capriciously setting this date despite the COVID-19 pandemic and without adequately considering the health and safety of these family members who have the right to attend Mr. Lee’s execution.
Mrs. Peterson is the mother of Nancy Mueller and the grandmother of Sarah Powell, who were killed along with Nancy’s husband William Mueller in the offense that led to Mr. Lee’s capital conviction. Ms. Gurel is Nancy’s sister and Sarah’s aunt, and Ms. Veillette is Nancy’s niece and Sarah’s cousin. They all attended Mr. Lee’s full trial in Little Rock in 1999.
While they have long opposed Mr. Lee’s execution – explaining that it does not honor their loved ones and is manifestly unfair because his more-culpable co-defendant received a life sentence – they also wish to exercise their right to attend the execution if it takes place (see June 24, 2020 statement from Mrs. Peterson here: https://tinyurl.com/ybs9stnw)
Mrs. Peterson is 81 years old. All three of the plaintiffs suffer from ailments and other factors that place them at high risk of complications or death from COVID-19. Mrs. Peterson lives “a distance of more than 500 miles from Terre Haute, Indiana. She suffers from congestive heart failure and, in addition to her age being a risk factor, also has other underlying conditions, that put her at increased risk for developing COVID-19-related complications.” (p. 4) And all three would have to travel hundreds of miles to attend the execution, which would require waiting in airports, flying in airplanes, using car services, staying in hotels, and using public restrooms. Attending the execution itself would require them to be escorted by BOP staff, to pass through multiple checkpoints, and then to wait in vehicles and interior, poorly ventilated prison facilities for extended periods of time, at close quarters with prison personnel and other witnesses.