Give Now  »

Indiana Public Media | WFIU - NPR | WTIU - PBS

Noon Edition

After 17 Year Pause, Three Federal Executions Carried Out In Terre Haute, Another Scheduled In August




Noon Edition airs on Fridays at noon on WFIU. 

Last week, three federal executions took place at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute. They are the first federal executions to be carried out in seventeen years. 

State and federal death sentences are different. A federal death sentence means someone has broken federal law, and is not as common. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, eight people are currently on Indiana’s death row.

Terre Haute holds the only prison in the U.S. with a federal execution chamber. 

These are the three men executed last week:

Daniel Lewis Lee was executed July 14. Lee, a former white supremesist, was convicted in 1999 of murdering a family of three, one of whom was an eight-year old girl, in a plot to build a white-only nation. 

Wesley Ira Purkey was executed on July 16. Purkey was sentenced to death in 2004 for the 1998 rape and murder of 16-year-old Jennifer Long in Kansas City, Missouri. He was also convicted of fatally beating an 80-year old woman. 

Dustin Lee Honken was executed on July 17. He was sentenced to death for the 1993 murders of five people, two of which were children. 

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan ordered last-minute injunctions  to delay the executions, but they were overturned by the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision. 

The legal challenges delayed Lee and Purkey's executions, and left Lee’s fate uncertain up until the final hours before his death.

Some politicians and legal experts say the resumption of federal executions has political implications, and criticize the decision to move forward with executions during a pandemic. 

In 2014, President Barack Obama ordered a review of how the death penalty is applied in the U.S. 

Last summer, the Justice Department announced it would begin executions again this summer as the review was complete. The last federal executions took place during the George W. Bush administration.

Another federal execution is scheduled in late August for Keith Dwayne Nelson. He was convicted in 2001 of kidnapping, raping, and strangling a 10-year old girl.

It was noted by the Department of Justice that Lee, Purkey, Honken, and Nelson were all convicted of murdering children. 

According to NPR News, more than 60 federal prisoners await execution. 

This week, we will be talking about the significance of resuming federal executions.  

You can follow us on Twitter @NoonEdition or join us on the air by calling in at 812-855-0811 or toll-free at 1-877-285-9348. You can also send us questions for the show at

Note-This week of our guests and hosts will participate remotely to avoid risk of spreading infection. Because of this we will not be able to take callers live on-air. 


Jody Madeira, Indiana University Maurer School of Law professor 

Adam Pinsker, WFIU/WTIU News reporter, media witness

Robert Dunham, Death Penalty Information Center executive director 

Monica Foster, Indiana Federal Community Defenders chief federal defender 

Monica Veillette, relative of the family killed by Daniel Lewis Lee

Support For Indiana Public Media Comes From