Justice Department plans to appeal ruling halting execution

Federal Executions

FILE – In this Oct. 31 1997, file photo, Daniel Lewis Lee waits for his arraignment hearing for murder in the Pope County Detention Center in Russellville, Ark. On Tuesday, July 7, 2020, family members of the victims of Lee, who is scheduled to be put to death next week, asked a federal judge to delay his execution, saying the coronavirus pandemic puts them at risk if they travel to attend it. (Dan Pierce/The Courier via AP, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department plans to appeal a judge’s ruling that halted the first federal execution in nearly two decades after family members of the victims raised concerns they would be at high risk of coronavirus if they had to travel to attend it.

The Justice Department filed its notice to appeal to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday.

A federal judge had said Daniel Lee’s execution must not move forward as scheduled on Monday. Lee was to be the first federal inmate to be put to death in 17 years.

Lee, of Yukon, Oklahoma, was convicted in Arkansas of the 1996 killings of gun dealer William Mueller, his wife, Nancy, and her 8-year-old daughter, Sarah Powell.

Prosecutors also filed court papers asking the judge who implemented the injunction to stay that order pending appeal.

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