Judge Tanya Chutkan of the US District Court in Washington has issued an injunction ordering the US Department of Justice to postpone the first federal execution in 17 years, which was scheduled for today. The injunction, issued just hours before the execution was to be carried out, gives a green light to legal challenges against the lethal injection protocol to continue.
"Accordingly, having reviewed the parties’ filings, the record, and the relevant case law, and for the reasons set forth above, the court will grant the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction. A corresponding order will be issued simultaneously", Judge Tanya Chutkan said.
A US appeals court earlier rejected the ruling of an Indiana judge to block the first federal execution. The ruling was issued after some of the victims’ relatives sued, claiming that the Indiana prison had failed to provide a safe environment for them to attend the execution amid the coronavirus pandemic. They also argued they had a right to be present at Lee's execution and launched a legal suit against the Department of Justice to delay it until the coronavirus pandemic was over.
The appeals court said that the plaintiffs' claim was "frivolous", as executions are "not public proceedings".
The lethal injections scheduled for today would have been the first federal, as opposed to state, execution since 2003.