The United States has carried out its second federal execution this week by killing Wesley Ira Purkey on Thursday morning by lethal injection.
Purkey, who was convicted during the kidnapping and killing of 16-year-old Jennifer Long in 1998, before killing, burning and dumping her body in a septic tank, was killed at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana, at 8:19 a.m. local time.
“I deeply regret the pain and suffering I caused Jennifer’s family,” Purkey said in the moments before the execution. “I am just sorry. I deeply regret the pain I caused my daughter, which I love so much. This cleansed murder really serves no purpose at all. “
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Purkey was also convicted in a state court in Kansas after using a claw hammer to kill an 80-year-old woman with polio, but his lawyers claimed he had dementia and was unfit to be executed.
The US Supreme Court cleared the way for his execution to take place a few hours before, and ruled in a 5-4 decision. The four liberal justices dissented – as they did for the first case earlier this week.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote that “continuing Purkey’s execution now, despite the serious questions and the actual findings regarding his mental competence, casts a veil of constitutional doubt on the most irreversible damage.” She was joined by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan.
It was the second execution of the federal government after a 17-year hiatus. Another man, Daniel Lewis Lee, was killed Tuesday after his eleventh hour of legal bidding failed.
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Purkey’s lawyers had claimed that his condition had deteriorated so much that he did not understand why he was executed. They said he was repeatedly sexually assaulted as a child and had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and other mental health conditions.
The question of Purkey’s mental health arose on the occasion of his trial in 2003 and when lawyers after the verdict had to decide whether he would kill in the killing of Long in Kansas City, Missouri. Prosecutors said he raped and stabbed Long, smashed her with a chainsaw, burned her body and dumped her ashes 200 miles into a septic tank in Kansas.
Purkey was convicted separately and sentenced to life in the 80-year-old Mary Ruth Bales, in Kansas City, Kansas, killing.
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Purkey had a long history of childhood trauma, was sexually abused by family members and a Catholic priest, and was abused by other family members, Liz Vartkessian, a mitigation specialist who worked with Purkey’s legal team and visited him several times over the past five years. , told the Associated Press.
But recently, Purkey’s mental health had deteriorated to the point that he did not have the stamina for long visits with his legal team and often forgot important facts and dates, she said.
Correctional officials had to help him write down a schedule to remember his visits with his lawyers, Vartkessian added.
And he had a long history of paranoia and delusions and believed the Justice Department was moving forward with his execution due to many complaints and lawsuits that he took into jail, even though most had failed, Vartkessian said.
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The Supreme Court this week has also suspended for a while other executions scheduled for Friday and next month.
Dustin Honken, a drug lord from Iowa who is convicted of killing five people in a system to silence former dealers, is scheduled to be executed on Friday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.