US judge blocks second federal execution in 17 years

WION Web Team
Washington, DC, United States of America Updated: Jul 16, 2020, 07:24 AM(IST)

Indiana State Troopers block a road leading to the Federal Correctional Institute Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

The Justice Department had planned to execute Wesley Purkey, convicted of raping and murdering a 16-year-old girl, at 4 pm EDT, despite objections by lawyers that he has dementia and no longer understands his punishment.

A US judge in Washington has blocked what would have been the second federal execution in 17 years, hours before it was to take place. Her orders, however, may yet be reversed as the Department of Justice challenges them in higher courts.

The Justice Department had planned to execute Wesley Purkey, convicted of raping and murdering a 16-year-old girl, at 4 pm EDT, despite objections by lawyers that he has dementia and no longer understands his punishment.

Purkey's lawyers complained in a court filing late Wednesday that the Justice Department had revealed at the last minute it held "scientific confirmation" of "significant structural abnormalities in Mr. Purkey’s brain that are consistent with cognitive impairment such as vascular dementia or other conditions."

Early on Wednesday, US District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan in Washington issued two injunctions to allow various legal challenges by some of the 61 inmates on federal death row to continue.

One of the injunctions also prevents the federal government from carrying out all scheduled executions, including Purkey's.

Also read | US carries out first federal execution in 17 years

The Justice Department has set execution dates for two other men convicted of murdering children: Dustin Honken on Friday and Keith Nelson on August 28.

The Supreme Court has previously ruled it is "abhorrent" and unconstitutional to execute someone whose mental illness prevents them from comprehending their punishment.

The Justice Department is appealing the injunctions in both the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit and the Supreme Court.

Purkey, 68, was convicted in 2003 in Missouri. He dumped his victim's dismembered and burned remains in a septic pond.

(with inputs from Reuters)

Read in App