(Reuters) – A U.S. District Court in Washington early on Wednesday blocked what would be the second federal execution in 17 years, hours before it was due to take place.
The U.S. Department of Justice had planned to execute Wesley Purkey, who has been convicted of raping and murdering a 16-year-old girl, despite objections by Purkey’s lawyers that he has dementia and no longer understands his punishment.
The order by District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan blocking Purkey’s execution also prevents the federal government executing two others – Dustin Honken and Keith Nelson – convicted of murdering children.
“The court finds that 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,” Chutkan said.
Purkey, 68, was convicted in 2003 in Missouri. He dumped his victim’s dismembered and burned remains in a septic pond.
The U.S. government carried out its first execution in 17 years on Tuesday, putting to death convicted murderer Daniel Lee after the Supreme Court cleared the way with an overnight ruling.
The justice department had scheduled Honken’s execution on Friday. Nelson had been set to be executed on Aug 28.