Supreme Court clears way for second federal execution

Supreme Court clears way for second federal execution
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The Supreme Court early Thursday morning lifted a series of injunctions on the Trump administration's push to execute federal death-row inmates, clearing the way for the second execution to be carried out this week.

At about 2:45 a.m., the court lifted stays of execution on Wesley Ira Purkey, who had been scheduled to be executed on Wednesday. 

Purkey was executed at a federal prison in Terra Haute, Ind., just hours after the court's move and was pronounced dead shortly after 8 a.m. on Thursday, the Department of Justice said.


Purkey's lawyers say he suffered from severe dementia and couldn't remember why he was being put to death. He was convicted of a 1998 kidnapping and murder of a 16-year-old girl.

“After many years of litigation following the death of his victims, in which he lived and was afforded every due process of law under our Constitution, Purkey has finally faced justice,” Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said in a statement. “The death penalty has been upheld by the federal courts, supported on a bipartisan basis by Congress, and approved by Attorneys General under both Democratic and Republican administrations as the appropriate sentence for the most egregious federal crimes. Today that just punishment has been carried out.”

The latest developments come just two days after the court cleared the way for the first federal execution in 17 years, in a similar order that came in the early morning hours on Tuesday.

Two of the injunctions that were lifted Thursday were issued just hours before Purkey's execution, prompting the Justice Department to scramble to petition the Supreme Court on Wednesday to quickly remove the obstacles.

A majority of the justices complied, though the orders issued Thursday morning were unsigned.


The court's four liberal justices — Stephen BreyerStephen BreyerREAD: Supreme Court justices mourn death of Ginsburg, 'an American hero' Ginsburg death sets up battle over future of court Trump's Supreme Court list reveals influence of Clarence Thomas MORE, Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgTrump 'no longer angry' at Romney because of Supreme Court stance Fox News poll: Biden ahead of Trump in Nevada, Pennsylvania and Ohio On The Money: Anxious Democrats push for vote on COVID-19 aid | Pelosi, Mnuchin ready to restart talks | Weekly jobless claims increase | Senate treads close to shutdown deadline MORE, Elena KaganElena KaganREAD: Supreme Court justices mourn death of Ginsburg, 'an American hero' Democrats, advocates seethe over Florida voting rights ruling Supreme Court denies push to add Green Party candidates to Montana ballot MORE and Sonia SotomayorSonia SotomayorToomey, swing state Republican, supports Senate moving on Trump Supreme Court nominee Names to watch as Trump picks Ginsburg replacement on Supreme Court READ: Supreme Court justices mourn death of Ginsburg, 'an American hero' MORE — dissented from the decision.

"Although the Government and the family members of the victim have a legitimate interest in punishing the guilty, that interest must be measured against Purkey’s and the public’s interest in ensuring that such punishment comports with the Constitution," Sotomayor wrote in a dissent. "At the same time, 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."

Updated at 9:31 a.m.