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US executes fifth federal prisoner after 17-year pause

US executes fifth federal prisoner after 17-year pause

FILE PHOTO: The sun sets on the Federal Corrections Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana, U.S. May 22, 2019. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston -/File Photo

REUTERS: The US government executed Keith Nelson, a convicted child murderer, on Friday (Aug 28) afternoon in its fifth execution since it resumed capital punishment this summer after a 17-year hiatus and despite a ruling the lethal injections violated US drug laws.

Nelson, 45, was declared dead at 4:32 p.m. in the US Department of Justice's execution chamber in Terre Haute, Indiana, after being injected with lethal doses of pentobarbital, a powerful barbiturate, according to a media representative who witnessed the execution.

It was the second execution this week after Lezmond Mitchell, another convicted murderer, was killed on Wednesday. The administration of President Donald Trump, a vocal supporter of capital punishment for serious crimes, has now carried out more federal executions than took place in the preceding 57 years.

On Thursday, a federal judge overseeing legal challenges to the execution protocol by Nelson and other death row inmates ruled that the Justice Department's protocol violated drug safety laws.

Judge Tanya Chutkan of the US District Court in Washington ordered Nelson's execution be delayed until the Justice Department revised its protocol to comply with the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, including a requirement that a drug can only be issued on a clinician's prescription.

The Justice Department challenged the injunction delaying the execution in the US Appeals Court for the District of Columbia Circuit. The appeals court overturned the injunction on Thursday evening, ruling that Chutkan had not established that violations of the act constituted "irreparable harm."

Chutkan spoke with lawyers representing Nelson and the Justice Department in a telephone conference on Friday as she considered a request by Nelson's lawyers to revise her order or issue a new one blocking Friday's execution.

Chutkan denied that request less than 90 minutes before Nelson's scheduled execution time, writing that he had not "convincingly" shown irreparable injury.

Nelson, who was convicted of raping and murdering 10-year-old Pamela Butler in Kansas in 1999, was one of more than a dozen inmates on federal death row in Terre Haute who sued the Justice Department over its lethal injection protocol, which was announced in 2019, replacing the old three-drug protocol last used in 2003.

He is now the fourth of those plaintiffs to have since been executed by the Justice Department after the US Supreme Court swiftly dismissed earlier injunctions issued by Chutkan delaying the executions to allow the litigation to proceed.

Source: Reuters/nh

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