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Trump administration plans to appeal judge's halting of first federal execution in 17 years after victims' family said they couldn't attend lethal injection of white supremacist who killed three because of the coronavirus

The Justice Department plans to appeal a judge’s ruling that halted the first federal execution in nearly two decades after family members of the victims raised concerns they would be at high risk of coronavirus if they had to travel to attend it.
The Justice Department filed its notice to appeal to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday.
A federal judge in Indiana on Friday halted the first federal execution planned in 17 years because the victims' family wanted to attend but was worried about contracting coronavirus.
Daniel Lee, a 47-year-old white supremacist who was sentenced to death after he was convicted of killing a family of three, had been scheduled to die by lethal injection on Monday. 
Lee, of Yukon, Oklahoma, was convicted in Arkansas of the 1996 killings of gun dealer William Mueller, his wife, Nancy, and her 8-year-old daughter, Sarah Powell.
Prosecutors also filed court papers asking the judge who implemented the injunction to stay that order pending appeal. 
US Chief District Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson ruled that the execution would be put on hold because the family of the victims wanted to attend but were afraid of traveling during the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 130,000 people and is ravaging prisons nationwide.
Attorney General William Barr has said part of the reason to resume executions was to carry out the sentences imposed by the court and to deliver a sense of justice to the victim's families, but relatives of those killed by Lee did not want that.
Lee, who was scheduled to be executed on Monday, was condemned to death by a federal jury in 1999 for the murders of Bill Mueller, his wife Nancy (right), and Nancy's daughter, Sarah Powell (left)
Lee, who was scheduled to be executed on Monday, was condemned to death by a federal jury in 1999 for the murders of Bill Mueller, his wife Nancy (right), and Nancy's daughter, Sarah Powell (left)
The mother of Nancy Mueller, Earlene Peterson, is opposed to Lee's execution
They have pleaded for years that Lee instead should receive the same life sentence as the ringleader in the deadly scheme. 
The relatives, including Earlene Branch Peterson, who lost her daughter and granddaughter in the killing, had urged the Trump administration for months not to move forward with the death sentence and had argued their grief is compounded by the push to execute Lee in the middle of a pandemic.
'The harm to Ms. Peterson, for example, is being forced to choose whether being present for the execution of a man responsible for the death of her daughter and granddaughter is worth defying her doctor's orders and risking her own life,' the judge wrote.

The injunction delays the execution until there is no longer such an emergency. 
The court order applies only to Lee's execution and does not halt two other executions that are scheduled for later next week and a third set to take place in August.
The resumption of federal executions comes as the federal prison has struggled to combat the coronavirus pandemic behind bars, including at least one death at USP Terre Haute, where they will take place. 
One inmate there has died from COVID-19.
The inmates who will be executed are Lee; Wesley Ira Purkey, of Kansas, who raped and murdered a 16-year-old girl and killed an 80-year-old woman; Dustin Lee Honken, who killed five people in Iowa, including two children; and Keith Dwayne Nelson, who kidnapped a 10-year-old girl who was rollerblading in front of her Kansas home and raped her in a forest behind a church before strangling the young girl to death with a wire.
Three of the executions — for Lee, Purkey and Honken — are scheduled days apart beginning July 13. 
A federal judge denied Lee's request for a new trial but noted that evidence presented by his attorneys 'is reasonably likely' to have led to a different sentence. Lee is seen above in this October 1997 file photo
A federal judge denied Lee's request for a new trial but noted that evidence presented by his attorneys 'is reasonably likely' to have led to a different sentence. Lee is seen above in this October 1997 file photo
Wesley Ira Purkey, 68, of Kansas, will be executed for the rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl and an 80-year-old woman
Dustin Lee Honken, 52, who killed five people in Iowa, including two children also is scheduled for execution
Also scheduled for execution is Keith Dwayne Nelson, 45, who was convicted for kidnapping a 10-year-old girl who was rollerblading in front of her Kansas home and raped her in a forest behind a church before strangling the young girl to death with a wire
Inmates (left to right) Wesley Ira Purkey, 68; Dustin Lee Honken, 52; and Keith Dwayne Nelson, 45, are scheduled for execution by order of US Attorney General William Barr. Two of the executions — for Purkey and Honken — are scheduled days apart beginning on July 13. Nelson's execution has been scheduled for late August
Nelson’s execution is scheduled for August 28. The Justice Department said additional executions will be set at a later date.
The decision to proceed with the executions had been criticized as a dangerous and political move. 
Critics argue the government is instead creating an unnecessary and manufactured urgency around a topic that isn't high on the list of American concerns right now.
Chevie Kehoe, whom prosecutors described as the ringleader, recruited Lee in 1995 for his white supremacist organization. 
Two years later, they were arrested for the killings of the Muellers and Sarah in Tilly, Arkansas, about 75 miles northwest of Little Rock. 
At their 1999 trial, prosecutors said Kehoe, of Colville, Washington, and Lee stole guns and $50,000 in cash from the Muellers as part of their plan to establish a whites-only nation.
Lee's attorneys also cite evidence from his trial that Kehoe actually killed Sarah.
The executions appeared set to happen following a Supreme Court decision refusing to block them and a lower court affirming the ruling. 
The executions of four death row inmates will take place at the Federal Correctional Complex Terre Haute in Terre Haute, Indiana
The executions of four death row inmates will take place at the Federal Correctional Complex Terre Haute in Terre Haute, Indiana
It's not clear what will happen with the other scheduled executions, which are scheduled next week for Wednesday and Friday.
Wesley Ira Purkey, of Kansas, who raped and murdered a 16-year-old girl and killed an 80-year-old woman, is scheduled to die on Wednesday. 
Dustin Lee Honken, who killed five people in Iowa, including two children, is scheduled to be executed Friday.
Keith Dwayne Nelson, scheduled to be executed in August, was convicted of kidnapping a 10-year-old girl while she was rollerblading in front of her Kansas home, raping her in a forest behind a church and then strangling her.

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