Judge blocks second planned federal execution, citing inmate's dementia

Judge blocks second planned federal execution, citing inmate's dementia
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For the second time this week, a judge in Washington, D.C., has blocked the Trump administration from resuming federal executions.

U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan granted a preliminary injunction early Wednesday morning to Wesley Ira Purkey, a man who suffers from dementia and schizophrenia who is scheduled to be executed later in the day. The Department of Justice has already appealed Chutkan's order.

The same process occurred earlier this week in the hours leading up to the first federal execution in 17 years. Chutkan had ordered an injunction against the death sentence, only to be overruled by the Supreme Court just hours later, shortly after 2 a.m. on Tuesday.

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The administration quickly moved to execute Daniel Lewis Lee later Tuesday morning.

"The speed with which the government seeks to carry out these executions, and the Supreme Court’s prioritization of that pace over additional legal process, makes it considerably more likely that injunctions may issue at the last minute, despite the efforts of Plaintiffs' counsel to raise, and the court to adjudicate, the claims in a timely fashion," Chutkan wrote on Wednesday.

Chutkan, who was appointed by former President Obama, said that the new injunction is warranted because of Purkey's mental state. His lawyers have argued that his dementia prevents him from understanding why he is set to be executed.

Purkey was convicted and sentenced to death for a 1998 kidnapping and murder of a 16-year-old girl.

“Wes Purkey is a 68-year old, severely brain-damaged and mentally ill man who suffers from advanced Alzheimer’s disease and dementia," Rebecca Woodman, Purkey's attorney, said in a statement. "Though he has long accepted responsibility for his crime, he no longer has a rational understanding of why the government plans to execute him. By staying Wes’s execution, the court’s action signals the importance of allowing him to present the extensive, available medical evidence demonstrating his incompetency to be executed.”

Chutkan on Wednesday also ordered a new injunction in a group of death row inmates' legal challenge against the administration's new execution protocol, which involves a single drug called pentobarbital sodium.

Both of her orders were appealed to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and could reach the Supreme Court later today.

Updated at 9:51 a.m.