"CLAW-hammer killer" Wesley Ira Purkey was the second federal execution this week, after the Supreme Court rejected his lawyers' mental illness plea.
On Thursday, Purkey, 68, was put to death at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana, for raping, killing and dismembering a Kansas City teen and bludgeoning an 80-year-old to death.
Although his lawyers said that he suffered from advancing Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, and delusions, the Kansas convict expressed remorse for before his death at 8.19 am local time.
“I deeply regret the pain and suffering I caused to Jennifer [Long's] family,” he said.
“I am deeply sorry. I deeply regret the pain I caused to my daughter, who I love so very much. This sanitized murder really does not serve no purpose whatsoever.”
The Supreme Court had paved the way for his death by lethal injection hours before in a 5-4 ruling, as the court's four liberal members dissented.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote that “proceeding with Purkey’s execution now, despite the grave questions and factual findings regarding his mental competency, casts a shroud of constitutional doubt over the most irrevocable of injuries.”
Fellow liberal justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan joined her.
A lower court had initially put an emergency hold on the execution for one hour as it weighed issues in the case, which delayed the execution slated for Wednesday evening.
Purkey was on death row for nearly 20 years after he was convicted of the rape and murder of Jennifer Long, 16, in Missouri on November 3, 2003.
He was also convicted of using a claw hammer to batter Mary Ruth Bales to death, an 80-year-old who had polio and used a cane to get around in a state court case.
Attorneys for the Kansas City convict had argued that he has dementia, he wouldn't understand the punishment, and asked the government to set a new date if the execution didn't go ahead yesterday.
He was granted a preliminary injunction by District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan, who said “at least one of plaintiffs’ claims has a likelihood of success on the merits, and that absent a preliminary injunction, plaintiffs will suffer irreparable harm."
But the Department of Justice appealed Chutkan's order ahead of his execution this morning.
Government lawyers said the execution could go ahead on Thursday if the Supreme Court lifted the injunctions.
The issue of Purkey’s deteriorating mental health arose in the run-up to his 2003 trial.
After the verdict, jurors had to decide whether he should be put to death in the killing Long in Kansas City.
Prosecutors said he raped, stabbed, murdered, and dismembered her with a chainsaw, before burning her remains and dumped the ashes 200 miles away in a septic pond in Kansas.
Proceeding with Purkey’s execution now ... casts a shroud of constitutional doubt over the most irrevocable of injuries.Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor
He was separately convicted and sentenced to life for the beating death of 80-year-old Mary Ruth Bales, of Kansas City who suffered from polio.
Purkey was sentenced to death – but mental health groups rallied against this ruling before he uttered his last words on July 16.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and Mental Health America penned an open letter on July 9 to Attorney General William Barr calling on him to commute Purkey's execution.
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The news comes after Barr directed the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to schedule the executions of four federal death-row inmates last month.
White supremacist and child killer Daniel Lewis Lee, 47, was executed at the Terre Haute federal prison on Tuesday after his eleventh hour legal bids failed – marking the first federal execution in nearly 20 years.
Dustin Lee Honken, who shot and killed five people, is due to be executed on Friday, while kidnapper and child killer Keith Dwayne Nelson will be executed on August 28.