US carries out second execution in a week, killing man lawyers say had dementia

Wesley Ira Purkey spoke out against capital punishment before receiving lethal injection in Indiana

The United States on Thursday carried out its second federal execution this week, killing by lethal injection a Kansas man whose lawyers contended he had dementia and was unfit to be executed.

Wesley Purkey was put to death at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana.

He spoke out against capital punishment from the execution platform where he received the lethal injection, and apologized for the pain caused by his crimes to victims and his own family.

Purkey was convicted of kidnapping and killing a 16-year-old girl, Jennifer Long, before dismembering, burning and dumping her body 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.

Purkey was strapped to a gurney inside the execution chamber. A prison official removed a mask from Purkey’s face and asked him 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. “I deeply regret the pain I caused to my daughter, who I love so very much,” he said. His last words were: “This sanitized murder really does not serve no purpose whatsoever. Thank you.”

He died at 8.19am US east coast time on Thursday. His spiritual adviser was in the room, wearing a face mask and a surgical mask and appeared to be praying, his gloved hands held together at the palms.

The US supreme court cleared the way for the execution to take place just hours before, ruling in a 5-4 decision. The four liberal justices dissented, like they did for the first case earlier this week.

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.” She was joined by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan.

It was the federal government’s second execution after a 17-year hiatus. Another man, Daniel Lewis Lee, was put to death Tuesday after his eleventh hour legal bids failed.

Both executions were delayed into the day after they were scheduled as legal wrangling continued late into the night and into the next morning.

The justice department has been questioned for holding the executions in the middle of the worsening coronavirus pandemic, prompting lawsuits over fears those who would travel to the prison could become infected.

The decision to resume executions after nearly two decades was criticized as a dangerously political move in an election year, forcing an issue that is not high on the list of American priorities considering the 11% unemployment rate and the pandemic.

Guardian staff and agencies

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
'Abolish the death penalty': Brandon Bernard execution prompts wave of anger
Elected officials and human rights groups in renewed plea for end to federal executions after Bernard, 40, put to death in Indiana

Tom McCarthy

11, Dec, 2020 @2:14 PM

Article image
Nebraska carries out America's first execution using opioid fentanyl
Fentanyl – which has central role in America’s overdose epidemic – used to kill Carey Dean Moore despite widespread objections

Chris McGreal in Portland

14, Aug, 2018 @5:37 PM

Article image
Arkansas carries out first double execution in the US for 16 years
Execution of Marcel Williams goes ahead despite legal wrangle over whether first lethal injection had gone wrong

Ed Pilkington in Cleveland, Jamiles Lartey in New York, and Jacob Rosenberg in the Cummins Unit

25, Apr, 2017 @4:36 AM

Article image
'This is not justice': supreme court liberals slam Trump's federal executions
Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer issue stinging dissents after Dustin Higgs becomes 13th and last inmate killed by administration

Richard Luscombe

16, Jan, 2021 @10:47 PM

Article image
US executes Corey Johnson for 1992 Virginia murders
Lawyers for Johnson, who was convicted of killing seven, said lethal injection would cause him pain due to lung damage from Covid

Guardian staff and agencies

15, Jan, 2021 @1:56 PM

Article image
US judge again delays execution of woman on federal death row
Execution of Lisa Montgomery may now be rescheduled for after Donald Trump leaves office

Jedidajah Otte

26, Dec, 2020 @1:07 PM

Article image
Lawyers race to save seven Arkansas inmates from ‘execution by assembly line’
Death-row prisoners set to die within 11 days of each other in April unless attorneys can convince judge that rushed injections will lead to undue suffering

Ed Pilkington in New York

10, Apr, 2017 @11:00 AM

Article image
Purvi Patel's lawyers appeal 20-year sentence over self-induced abortion
The woman, who was convicted of feticide and child neglect in Indiana last February, generated national attention on lack of access to abortion services

Molly Redden

23, May, 2016 @8:40 PM

Article image
Pete Buttigieg: police killing exposes mayor's troubled history with minorities
Indiana city’s black community says his handling of a tragedy is part of a pattern that leaves people of color behind

Tom Perkins in South Bend, Indiana

27, Jun, 2019 @6:00 AM

Article image
Outcry after Oklahoma prisoner vomits and convulses during execution
Witnesses describe gruesome scenes as John Grant, 60, put to death on Thursday in state’s first judicial killing for six years

Ed Pilkington in New York

29, Oct, 2021 @5:12 PM