SCOTUS Splits 5-4 on 2nd Execution This Week

Court clears way for execution of Wesley Purkey
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 16, 2020 2:46 AM CDT
Supreme Court Clears Way for 2nd Execution This Week
Protesters against the death penalty gather in Terre Haute, Ind., Wednesday, July 15, 2020.   (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

The Supreme Court early Thursday cleared the way for a second federal execution this week. The vote to allow the execution of Wesley Ira Purkey to go forward was 5-4, with the court's four liberal members dissenting, the AP reports. Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote that “proceeding with Purkey’s execution now, despite the grave questions and factual findings regarding his mental competency, casts a shroud of constitutional doubt over the most irrevocable of injuries." She was joined by fellow liberal justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, and Elena Kagan. Purkey was convicted of kidnapping, raping, and killing a 16-year-old girl before dismembering, burning, and then dumping the teen’s body in a septic pond. He was also convicted in a Kansas state court of killing an 80-year-old woman.

Purkey’s execution for the 1998 murder of the teen had been scheduled for Wednesday at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana. On Tuesday, Daniel Lewis Lee was put to death at the facility after his eleventh-hour legal bids failed. It was the first federal execution after a 17-year hiatus. Lawyers for the 68-year-old Purkey argued that he has dementia and is unfit to be executed. They said his condition has deteriorated so severely that he didn’t understand why he was being executed. They also said that if Purkey’s execution did not take place Wednesday, the government would need to set a new date. But government lawyers said there was no obstacle to going through with the execution Thursday if the Supreme Court lifted the injunctions.

(More death penalty stories.)

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