By a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court removed a stay imposed by U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, clearing the way for the first federal prison inmate execution in 17 years.
Lawyers for Daniel Lewis Lee had argued that government use of pentobarbital for lethal injections was unconstitutional, but in an unsigned opinion, the five justices commonly referred to as the Court's conservatives rejected those claims.
Lewis, a white supremacist who had plotted to build a "whites-only nation" in the Pacific Northwest, was convicted of killing an Arkansas man, his wife, and their 8-year-old daughter in 1996. He was executed at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, early Tuesday morning despite the objection of the victims' family.
The decision by Justices Roberts, Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh also removed the delays for two other men on death row. Wesley Ira Purkey, who raped and murdered a 16-year-old girl before burning and dismembering her body, and Dustin Lee Honken, who fatally shot five people including two children, will be executed later this week.
A fourth man, Dwayne Nelson, who kidnapped and raped a 10-year-old girl before murdering her, is also scheduled to die in late August.
The Supreme Court's decision not only rejected the claim of cruel and unusual punishment, it also dismissed objections of ineffective counsel and the supposed lack of sanitary and safe conditions for families attending the execution amid the coronavirus pandemic.