Lawyers: Federal Inmate Is Mentally Unfit for Execution

DC judge halts plan to execute Wesley Purkey
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 15, 2020 2:20 PM CDT
Judge Halts Another Federal Execution
The entrance to the federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., is seen Wednesday, July 15, 2020.   (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

A Washington, DC judge has halted plans to execute a second federal inmate in two days. Wesley Ira Purkey, 68, was scheduled to be executed at 4pm Wednesday for the 1998 kidnapping, rape, and murder of 16-year-old Jennifer Long. US District Judge Tanya Chutkan issued an injunction Wednesday morning blocking the execution and called for further evaluation of claims that Purkey is mentally unfit to be executed, CNN reports. "Wes Purkey is a 68-year old, severely brain-damaged and mentally ill man who suffers from advanced Alzheimer’s disease and dementia," lawyer Rebecca Woodman said.

Purkey "has long accepted responsibility for the crime that put him on death row," Woodman said. "But as his dementia has progressed, he no longer has a rational understanding of why the government plans to execute him." The Justice Department immediately appealed the federal judge's ruling Wednesday and the legal wrangling is expected to continue throughout the day, as happened before the execution of Daniel Lewis Lee, the first federal prisoner to be executed since 2003. He was executed at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind. Tuesday, a day later than scheduled, after the Supreme Court cleared the way. (More execution stories.)

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