A week that marked the return of capital punishment by the US government after a 17-year hiatus is due to end with a third planned execution of a federal prisoner today.
If Donald Trump’s administration faces no legal obstacle in putting Dustin Lee Honken, a convicted murderer, to death by lethal injection at 4pm EDT (9pm BST), it will have completed as many executions in a few days as happened in the preceding 57 years.
Government plans third execution this week after 17-year hiatus
Lawyers for the condemned men have amassed legal challenges, which include arguments that the US Department of Justice’s new one-drug lethal-injection protocol breaches a constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishments.
These arguments have been rejected twice this week in overnight rulings by a 5-4 majority in the Supreme Court.
Dustin Honken was a dealer in illegal methamphetamine when he and his girlfriend murdered five people in Iowa in 1993, including two girls aged 10 and 6. He was convicted in 2004.
He is one of several inmates on federal death row in Terre Haute, Indiana, who have said the new one-drug protocol, which replaces a three-drug protocol the government last used in 2003, would cause an unnecessarily painful death.
The litigation will continue in the US District Court in Washington with the surviving inmates. Since last year, Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is overseeing the cases, has ordered injunctions on three occasions delaying the scheduled executions to allow the legal challenges to play out. All three were overruled by the Supreme Court.
Two other men convicted of murdering children were executed in Terre Haute earlier this week: Daniel Lee on Tuesday, and Wesley Purkey on Thursday.