ACLU Statement on the Execution of Wes Purkey

Courts permit the second federal execution in 17 years

July 16, 2020 8:45 am

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INDIANAPOLIS —The federal government carried out the execution of Wes Purkey this morning just before 8:30 a.m. ET, despite pending litigation about his competency to be executed — a claim that no court ultimately heard before his execution. It was the second time this week that the government has carried out an execution one day after the date originally noticed, a legally troubling and previously unprecedented maneuver.

Cassandra Stubbs, director of the ACLU’s Capital Punishment Project, issued the following statement:

“This morning’s execution, following Danny Lee’s on Tuesday, marks a truly dark period for our country. After a rushed and truncated review, the courts abandoned the constitutional prohibition on executing people who lack rational understanding of the reason for their execution in order to allow the government to proceed with the shameful execution of Wes Purkey, despite his pending competency appeal.

“Every single person involved in this morning’s execution — from our client, Rev. Hartkemeyer, who ministered to Mr. Purkey, to the local and national reporters, to lawyers, and BOP staff — had to forgo their safety and risk exposure to COVID-19 in order to participate in the taking of Mr. Purkey’s’ life. There was no reason for this administration to restart federal executions now — after a nearly two-decade hiatus, during the worst public health crisis of our lifetime — except to distract from its many failings, particularly its failure to keep people safe during this pandemic.”

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