Last week the News Roundup noted that the U.S. Department of Justice was set to resume executions of death row inmates following a 17-year hiatus. After the Supreme Court lifted injunctions issued by lower federal court judges, two executions were carried out at a prison in Indiana this week. A third is scheduled for today. Keep reading for more on this story and other news.
Federal Executions. In noting the complexity and controversy surrounding the death penalty, last week’s News Roundup recounted some of the circumstances surrounding the murder conviction of Daniel Lewis Lee, who was executed on Tuesday after a one day delay caused by litigation of the injunction noted in the lead. The victims’ family in Lee’s case, along with the lead prosecutor and the presiding judge, had expressed their view that Lee should not be executed.
In contrast, a family member of the murder victim of the second person executed this week, Wesley Ira Purkey, said that justice had been served by Purkey’s execution on Thursday. In 1998, Purkey kidnapped and murdered 16-year-old Jennifer Long. In a statement to reporters, Jennifer’s father William Long said that the execution had “been a long time coming” and was an appropriate punishment for Purkey’s crime, adding that he expected that there never would be closure for him after the loss of his daughter.
NC-9. The News & Observer reports that Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman announced this week that she will not file criminal charges against former congressional candidate Mark Harris as part of Freeman’s investigation into the 9th Congressional District absentee ballot fraud scandal involving McCrae Dowless. Freeman said in a press release that there was not evidence to support charging Harris with a crime and noted his call for a new election in the wake of the scandal and decision not to run as “important steps in restoring the confidence of the voters in District 9.” After the announcement, Harris said that he was “personally grateful for the detailed investigation” by Freeman’s office and endorsed continued investigation into the case.
COVID Compliance. Carolina Public Press reports that Wake County Superior Court Judge Vinston Rozier Jr. recently ruled that the North Carolina prison system has failed to comply with orders that he entered last month after ruling that conditions in the state’s prisons likely were unconstitutional in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Rozier had ordered the Department of Public Safety to create a plan to test every person in state prison custody for the virus, limit transfers between prisons, account for disparities in responses by different prisons, and expand the criteria for people to be released. Last week, Rozier said that the state had “failed to comply with the court’s directions in several meaningful ways,” including failing to provide certain information, providing certain other incomplete or inaccurate information, and generally treating his order with “apparent indifference.”
Roger Stone. As the Associated Press reports, late last week President Donald Trump commuted the prison sentence of his longtime friend and political advisor Roger Stone, who was scheduled to soon begin a 40-month sentence after being convicted of lying to congress, witness tampering, and obstruction in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement that Stone was a “victim of the Russia Hoax.” In an op-ed in the Washington Post, Mueller defended his investigation, saying that it “was of paramount importance” and that “Stone was prosecuted and convicted because he committed federal crimes.”
Statue Removed. WRAL reports that a statue of former North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Ruffin was removed from the Court of Appeals building in Raleigh earlier this week. Ruffin was the third chief justice of the court and was a slave owner. Orange County, where Ruffin lived for some time, removed his portrait from the county’s historic courthouse in Hillsborough earlier this year.