US executes Wesley Purkey, 2nd federal execution in a week

U.S.

This May 2000 photo provided by the Kansas Department of Corrections shows Wesley Ira Purkey, who was convicted of kidnapping and killing a 16-year-old girl, and was sentenced to death. Purkey’s execution is scheduled to occur on July 15, 2020, in Terre Haute, Ind. (Kansas Department of Corrections via AP)

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (News Nation) —  The U.S. Department of Justice executed convicted murderer Wesley Purkey Thursday in the second federal execution this week after a 17-year pause.

The execution had been blocked by a federal court, but the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday overruled it, just as it had done in another case on Tuesday, once again putting the federal government back in the business of executing prisoners.

Purkey, 68, was convicted in 2003 in Missouri of raping and murdering 16-year-old Jennifer Long before dumping her dismembered and burned remains in a septic pond. He also was convicted in a state court in Kansas after using a claw hammer to kill an 80-year-old woman who had polio.

While strapped to a gurney inside the execution chamber, Purkey was asked if he wanted to make a final statement.

He leaned his head up slightly from the gurney and said: “I deeply regret the pain and suffering I caused to Jennifer’s family. I am deeply sorry.”

He also expressed remorse for his own adult daughter’s suffering his actions caused. His last words were: “This sanitized murder really does not serve no purpose whatsoever. Thank you.”

Purkey was pronounced dead at 8:19 a.m. EDT at the Justice Department’s execution chamber at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, the spokeswoman, Kristie Breshears said by phone.

His lawyers had argued he has brain damage and dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease. They said that although he had accepted responsibility for his crime, he no longer understood the reason for his execution and that killing him would breach the U.S. Constitution.

Before Tuesday, when the Justice Department executed convicted killer Daniel Lee in Terre Haute, the federal government had only executed three people since 1963, all from 2001 to 2003.

Lee had joined Purkey and other death row inmates in lawsuits challenging the legality of the government’s new one-drug lethal-injection protocol using pentobarbital, a barbiturate, which the Justice Department announced a year ago, replacing its three-drug protocol.

A federal judge agreed with a medical expert cited by the condemned men’s lawyers that the drug was likely to breach a constitutional ban on “cruel and unusual punishments” by causing a painful drowning sensation as bloody fluid filled their lungs before they lost consciousness. 

Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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