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US carries out first federal execution in 17 years after supreme court ruling

The US government has carried out its first execution in 17 years, putting to death convicted murderer Daniel Lee after the supreme court cleared the way overnight, a US Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman said.

Lee was pronounced dead at 8.07am ET, the spokeswoman, Kristie Breshears, said by phone.

The execution had been held up by a US district court in Washington, which on Monday ordered the justice department to delay four executions scheduled for July and August. The order was later affirmed by an appellate court.

But at 2.10am, less than seven hours before Lee’s execution was due to take place in Terre Haute, Indiana, the supreme court in a 5-4 vote cleared the way for federal executions to resume.risons spokeswoman said.

Lee was pronounced dead at 8.07am ET, the spokeswoman, Kristie Breshears, said by phone.

“The plaintiffs in this case have not made the showing required to justify last-minute intervention by a federal court,” the court said. “Last-minute stays like that issued this morning should be the extreme exception, not the norm.”

“The government has produced competing expert testimony of its own, indicating that any pulmonary edema occurs only after the prisoner has died or been rendered fully insensate.”

Lee was convicted of killing three members of an Arkansas family in 1996, one an eight-year-old girl. Some relatives of his victims opposed him receiving the death sentence.

Strapped to a gurney, Lee was asked if had any last words, according to a media witness present in the viewing chamber.

“I didn’t do it,” Lee said. “I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life but I’m not a murderer. You’re killing an innocent man.”

As the drug was being administered, Lee raised his head to look around. His breathing appeared to become labored, according to the pool report. Soon after, Lee’s chest was no longer moving, his lips turned blue and his fingers became ashy.

Two unnamed Bureau of Prisons officials and Lee’s spiritual adviser could be seen inside the execution chamber.

The attorney general, William Barr, announced last July that the justice department would resume executions of some of the 62 inmates on federal death row. He scheduled five executions for December, but was ordered to delay them by a district court judge while long-running lawsuits played out.

An appeals court overturned that injunction in April, and Barr announced new execution dates for July and August of four inmates, all men convicted of murdering children: Lee, Wesley Purkey, Dustin Honken and Keith Nelson.

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