A death chamber is seen in Huntsville, Texas in 1997

Bernd Obermann/AP

Daniel Lewis Lee was due to be executed on Monday for the 1996 killing of a family-of-three in Arkansas. 

Three of the victims’ family members filed a lawsuit last week, asking for the execution to be delayed because traveling to attend would be dangerous due to the coronavirus. 

A Southern District of Indiana judge sided with the family. The Justice Department immediately filed an appeal to have the execution go on as scheduled, but there has been no ruling on that so far. 

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The first federal execution in 17 years has been delayed due to coronavirus concerns, according to CNN.

Daniel Lewis Lee was set to be executed on Monday at the US Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, but a federal court judge put it on hold on Friday. 

Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson of the Southern District of Indiana sided with family members of Lee’s victims, who filed a lawsuit on Tuesday, asking that the execution be put off because it would be too dangerous for them to travel to Indiana because of COVID-19.

The Justice Department immediately filed an appeal, arguing that a lot of work had gone into scheduling the execution and that delaying it would be too much of a burden. No decision has been made on the appeal as of yet. 

Lee was to be the first federal inmate executed since the Trump administration pushed to resume the death penalty last year. 

In 1996, Lee, a one-time white supremacist, broke into the home of William Mueller and proceeded to kill the man, his wife Nancy, and Nancy’s 8-year-old daughter Sarah Powell.

He and his accomplice, Chevie Kehoe, according to court records, targeted the family as part of the robbery to help fund  a white supremacist community in the Pacific Northwest, reported USA Today.

Earlene Peterson, Nancy Mueller’s 81-year-old mother, led the lawsuit to get the execution delayed. 

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Over the years, she has become a vocal advocate against the death penalty, though she is also a Trump supporter, according to CBS News.

“Yes, Daniel Lee damaged my life, but I can’t believe taking his life is going to change any of that,” Peterson said in September. “I can’t see how executing Daniel Lee will honor my daughter in any way. In fact, it kinda, like, dirties her name because she wouldn’t want it and I don’t want it. That’s not the way it should be.”

Lee’s death sentence has also been the cause of controversy. Kehoe, his co-defendant, got a custodial sentence despite having killed the child, after Lee refused, and considered the mastermind of the crime. Kehoe was more clean-cut than Lee who had a swastika and SS strikes tattooed on his neck, had lost an eye in a bar fight, and looked more “like an outlaw,” advocates said.

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