In our name: The Justice Department has killed three men in one week.
Under the aegis of U.S. Attorney General William Barr and President Donald Trump, three men have been killed and Barr has celebrated the killings in our name even though 60% of Americans now question the death penalty and federal courts are still reviewing the constitutionality of the three-drug protocol. Please read their attorney’s statements.
1. Below are the last words of Dustin Honken followed by a statement from his attorney Shawn Nolan.
As his last words, Dustin Honken recited the following poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ. who was an English poet and Jesuit Priest:
I have desired to go
Where springs not fail,
To fields where flies no sharp and sided hail
And a few lilies blow.
And I have asked to be
Where no storms come,
Where the green swell is in the havens dumb,
And out of the swing of the sea.
The following is a statement from attorney Shawn Nolan on the execution of his client Dustin Honken:
“Dustin Honken was redeemed. He recognized and repented for the crimes he had committed, and spent his time in prison atoning for them. With Father Mark, Sister Betty, Cardinal Tobin and other religious mentors, Dustin worked every day at the Catholic faith that was at the center of his life. During his time in prison, he cared for everyone he came into contact with: guards, counselors, medical staff, his fellow inmates and his legal team. Over the years he grew incredibly close to his family, becoming a true father, son, brother and friend. There was no reason for the government to kill him, in haste or at all. In any case, they failed. The Dustin Honken they wanted to kill is long gone. The man they killed today was a human being, who could have spent the rest of his days helping others and further redeeming himself. May he rest in peace.”
-Shawn Nolan, attorney for Dustin Honken and Chief, Capital Habeas Unit,
Community Federal Defender Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
-July 17, 2020
- Leading Mental Health Organizations Call on Attorney General Barr to Stop July 15 Scheduled Execution of Wesley Purkey who is Diagnosed with Schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s Disease
(Washington, D.C.) Pointing to the Trump Administration’s commitment to “addressing the needs of individuals with serious mental illnesses” and arguing that “proceeding with his execution would violate the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on executing people who are not competent to understand the reason for their execution,” three of the country’s leading mental health organizations today submitted a letter strongly urging the Trump Administration to withdraw the July 15 execution date of federal death row prisoner Wes Purkey, and to commute his sentence to life imprisonment without possibility of parole.
The letter, signed by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Mental Health America (MHA), and the Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC), cites Mr. Purkey’s childhood history of “horrific physical and sexual abuse” and of psychiatric problems including institutionalizations beginning at age 14. “His diagnoses included schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and brain damage. He experienced terrifying delusions and hallucinations, including the belief that people were spraying a poisonous mist into his room and that drug dealers had implanted a device in his chest that was intended to kill him.”
The letter from the three organizations can be accessed here:
Mr. Purkey’s condition has progressively worsened during his years on death row. He has increasingly bizarre thought patterns and has filed many complaints against prison officials reflecting his irrational mental state. In 2016, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive dementia that usually results in death within seven years. The letter quotes a recent psychiatric report finding that “brain damage, dementia and delusions prevent [Mr. Purkey] from working with counsel or working for his own interest,” and that Mr. Purkey “lacked a rational understanding of the basis for his execution.”
While they acknowledge the pain Mr. Purkey’s crime has caused his victim’s family, the organizations assert that Mr. Purkey’s deteriorated mental condition would make executing him unconstitutional. “Irrespective of one’s position on the death penalty, it is well established that executing people whose developmental or medical status renders them less than fully able to comprehend the purpose of their punishment constitutes cruel and unusual punishment and does not comport with ‘evolving standards of decency.’”
Representatives from the three groups are available to speak with media, including:
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI);
NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.
Mental Health America (MHA):
Mental Health America (MHA) is the nation’s leading community-based nonprofit dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness and promoting the overall mental health of all.
Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC):
The Treatment Advocacy Center is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating barriers to the timely and effective treatment of severe mental illness. The organization promotes laws, policies and practices for the delivery of psychiatric care and supports the development of innovative treatments for and research into the causes of severe and persistent psychiatric illnesses, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
- The following is a statement from Ruth Friedman, attorney for Daniel Lee:
“It is important for everyone to understand exactly what happened last night to our client, Daniel Lewis Lee. At 2 AM on July 14, while the country was sleeping, the Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision vacating the injunction that had been in place against the first federal execution in 17 years. Within minutes, the Department of Justice moved to re-set Danny Lee’s execution–for 4 AM, summoning media and witnesses back to the prison in the very middle of the night. When it was brought to the government’s attention that a court stay still remained in place, the DOJ first maintained that that stay presented no legal impediment to executing Danny Lee, but then filed an “emergency” motion to lift the stay.
“Over the four hours it took for this reckless and relentless government to pursue these ends, Daniel Lewis Lee remained strapped to a gurney: a mere 31 minutes after a court of appeals lifted the last impediment to his execution at the federal government’s urging, while multiple motions remained pending, and without notice to counsel, he was executed.
“It is shameful that the government saw fit to carry out this execution during a pandemic. It is shameful that the government saw fit to carry out this execution when counsel for Danny Lee could not be present with him, and when the judges in his case and even the family of his victims urged against it. And it is beyond shameful that the government, in the end, carried out this execution in haste, in the middle of the night, while the country was sleeping. We hope that upon awakening, the country will be as outraged as we are.”
— Ruth Friedman, attorney for Daniel Lee and Director, Federal Capital Habeas Project