Daniel Lewis Lee

Daniel Lewis Lee
Daniel Lewis Lee.jpg
Born(1973-01-31)January 31, 1973
DiedJuly 14, 2020(2020-07-14) (aged 47)
Cause of deathExecution by lethal injection
Other namesDanny Lee
Daniel Lewis Graham
D L Graham
Criminal statusExecuted
Conviction(s)First-degree murder (3 counts)
Criminal penaltyDeath (May 4, 1999)
Partner(s)Chevie Kehoe
DateJuly 24, 1990; January 11, 1996
CountryUnited States
Date apprehended
June 17, 1997

Daniel Lewis Lee (January 31, 1973 – July 14, 2020)[1] was an American white supremacist and convicted murderer who was sentenced to death and executed for the murders of William Frederick Mueller, Nancy Ann Mueller, and their daughter Sarah Elizabeth Powell. Lee and his accomplice, Chevie Kehoe, murdered the family at their home in Arkansas, on January 11, 1996. Kehoe was found guilty of the triple murder in a separate trial and sentenced to three consecutive terms of life imprisonment without parole.

Upon conviction by the US federal government, Lee stayed on death row for 21 years before he was scheduled to be executed on July 13, 2020, but on that date, a U.S. district judge blocked the execution, citing unresolved legal issues.[2] Thereafter, on July 14, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the execution could proceed. It was scheduled for 4:00 am that same day.[3] After another short delay, he was executed at 8:07 am.[4] He was the first person executed by the US federal government since 2003.

Early life

Lee was born on January 31, 1973, in Yukon, Oklahoma.[5] He was reportedly abused and neglected as a child.[6]

On July 24, 1990, in Oklahoma City, then 17-year-old Lee got into an altercation with another man, Joseph “Joey” Wavra III, at a party. Lee struck Wavra in the face and kicked him on the floor once he had collapsed. He then assisted his cousin, John David Patton, in moving Wavra to a sewer tunnel. Lee took items from Wavra and handed Patton a knife which Patton used to kill him. Lee then assisted in disposing of Wavra's clothes. On December 2, 1990, Lee pleaded guilty to robbery, whereupon the murder charge was dismissed. He was sentenced to five years imprisonment for his involvement in the crime, while Patton was sentenced to life without parole.[7][8]

Lee met white supremacist Chevie Kehoe in 1995, and was recruited into a white supremacist organization known as the Aryan Peoples' Republic or the Aryan Peoples' Resistance (APR). On May 3, 1995, Lee was convicted of carrying a concealed weapon and was sentenced to six months probation.[9]

Mueller family murders

In January 1996, Lee and Kehoe left the state of Washington and traveled to Arkansas. On January 11, 1996, they arrived at the home of William Frederick Mueller, a gun dealer who lived near Tilly, Arkansas, and who possessed a large collection of weapons, ammunition, and cash. Kehoe and his father had robbed Mueller in February 1995, and Kehoe expected to find valuable property at the house. Dressed in police raid clothing, the two men tried to enter the Mueller home, but the family was not at home. When the Muellers returned, Lee and Kehoe overpowered and incapacitated Mueller and his wife, Nancy Ann Mueller (née Branch). They then questioned Nancy Mueller's 8-year-old daughter, Sarah Elizabeth Powell, about where they could find the cash, guns, and ammunition. After finding $50,000 in cash and gold (equivalent to $82,506 in 2020), and $30,000 worth of firearms and firearm parts, they shot each of the three victims with a stun gun. They then placed plastic bags over their heads, and sealed the bags with duct tape, suffocating them to death. They took the victims in Kehoe's vehicle to the Illinois Bayou, where they taped rocks to them and threw each family member into the swamp. For his part in the crime, Lee received $3,000 or $4,000 and a pistol. The bodies were discovered in Lake Dardanelle near Russellville, Arkansas, in late June 1996.[10][11]

Kehoe and his family took the stolen property to a motel in Spokane, Washington, by way of the Christian Identity community of Elohim City, Oklahoma.[12][13] On June 17, 1997, Kehoe was arrested in Cedar City, Utah.[14]

Sentencing and execution

When Kehoe was sentenced to life imprisonment, local prosecutors planned to pursue a similar sentence of life imprisonment for accomplice Daniel Lewis Lee, but were directed by the United States Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. to argue for a death sentence.[15] U.S. Attorney Paula Casey requested U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno withdraw jeopardy of capital punishment but was told by Deputy U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to continue seeking a death sentence. On 4 May 1999, Lee received a death sentence for three counts of murder in aid of racketeering. The mother of Nancy Mueller, Earlene Branch Peterson, pleaded for clemency on behalf of Lee. She stated, "I can't see how executing Daniel Lee will honor my daughter in any way. In fact, it's kinda like it dirties her name. Because she wouldn't want it and I don't want it."[16]

In December 1999, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit issued a writ of mandamus quashing Lee's subpoenas of Reno and Holder regarding the sentencing decision.[17] In March 2000, District Judge Garnett Thomas Eisele granted Lee's motion for a new penalty phase trial if the Attorney General herself decided not to withdraw the death penalty.[18] In December 2001, that judgment was reversed by the Eighth Circuit, which reinstated Lee's death sentence.[19] In July 2004, the Eighth Circuit affirmed Lee's conviction and death sentence on the merits.[20]

In April 2013, the Eighth Circuit affirmed the denial of Lee's habeas corpus petition challenging the constitutionality of his conviction.[21] In July 2015, the Eighth Circuit affirmed the denial of Lee's subsequent habeas motion challenging the constitutionality of his prior habeas motion.[22] Lee was scheduled to be executed on December 9, 2019, and would have been the first inmate to be executed by the federal government since the execution of Louis Jones Jr. in 2003.[23] On November 20, 2019, U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan issued a preliminary injunction preventing the resumption of federal executions. Lee and the other three plaintiffs in the case argued that the use of pentobarbital may violate the Federal Death Penalty Act of 1994.[24]

On December 5, 2019, an Indiana federal court stayed Lee's execution,[25] but the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit vacated the Indiana federal court's stay of execution on December 6, 2019.[26][27] Later that same day, the Supreme Court of the United States denied a stay of Chutkan's injunction against all federal executions while the U.S. Court of Appeals reviews Chutkan's decision.[28][29]

In April 2020, a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacated District Judge Chutkan's injunction in a per curiam decision.[30] Circuit Judges Gregory G. Katsas and Neomi Rao both wrote concurring opinions concluding that Lee may be executed, but for different reasons.[31] Circuit Judge David S. Tatel dissented, arguing that the statute explicitly requires the federal government to follow state execution protocols.[31] On June 29, 2020, the Supreme Court denied Lee's petition for a writ of certiorari, with Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissenting.[31]

The execution date was set for July 13, 2020, the first of several federal executions scheduled after the D.C. Circuit's ruling. The victims' families asked for a rescheduling of the date, saying they were unable to travel to witness the execution due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, but the Seventh Circuit ruled that while allowing the victims' families to attend such events is standard practice, there are no rights or legal basis for their attendance, and denied a change in date. The victims' families sent an emergency appeal to the Supreme Court.[32] Before the Supreme Court could rule, Judge Chutkan ordered a halt to all federal executions on the basis that the process was "very likely to cause extreme pain and needless suffering".[33] The Department of Justice appealed to both the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and the Supreme Court. The D.C. Circuit Court did not intervene. In the early morning of July 14, 2020, the Supreme Court lifted the hold that Judge Chutkan previously implemented in a 5–4 decision. This action allowed the Department of Justice to proceed with the execution; Lee's lawyers said that the execution could not go forward after midnight under federal regulations.[34]

Lee was executed later that morning. When asked for a final statement, he denied committing the crime, stating, "I didn't do it. I've made a lot of mistakes in my life, but I'm not a murderer. You're killing an innocent man",[1] and that he and Kehoe had been in a different part of the country when the crime occurred.[11] Lee was pronounced dead at 8:07 a.m. after receiving a single-dose lethal injection of pentobarbital.[1]

Lee was the first person to be executed by the United States federal government since the execution of Louis Jones Jr. in 2003.[4] Overall, his execution was the fourth federal execution since legislation permitting the resumption of the practice was passed in 1988.[35]


The Discovery Channel's docudrama series The FBI Files reenacts the behavior of Kehoe and Lee while also showing the forensic science used by the FBI to arrest them in season 2, episode 16, "Deadly Mission", originally aired: 2000.[36][37]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Shortell, David; de Vogue, Ariane; Duster, Chandelis (July 14, 2020). "Daniel Lewis Lee Executed after Supreme Court Clears the Way for First Federal Execution in 17 Years". CNN. Retrieved July 14, 2020.
  2. ^ "Judge blocks federal executions hours before first lethal injection in 17 years for triple murder". nbcnews.com. NBC News. Associated Press. July 13, 2020. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  3. ^ "U.S. Supreme Court allows federal executions to proceed". CNBC. July 14, 2020. Retrieved July 14, 2020.
  4. ^ a b "Trump administration carries out first federal execution since 2003 after late-night Supreme Court intervention". Washington Post. July 14, 2020. Retrieved July 14, 2020.
  5. ^ "Who is Daniel Lewis Lee? The Death Row inmate facing the first US federal execution in 17 years". Evening Standard. July 13, 2020. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  6. ^ "Sentencing hearing for supremacist Lee begins". Moscow-Pullman Daily News. May 11, 1999. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  7. ^ "United States of America v. Chevie O'Brien Kehoe and Daniel Lewis Lee" (PDF). Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel. March 26, 1998. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  8. ^ "Man Gets Life Without Parole In Knifing Death". The Oklahoman. March 8, 1991. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  9. ^ "United States v. Lee". FindLaw. July 8, 2004. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  10. ^ Atkins, Stephen E. (2011). Encyclopedia of Right-Wing Extremism In Modern American History. ABC-CLIO. p. 241. ISBN 978-1-59884-351-4.
  11. ^ a b "US carries out first federal execution in 17 years after Supreme Court clears the way". USA Today. July 14, 2020. Retrieved July 14, 2020.
  12. ^ "U.S. V. Kehoe". Leagle.com. Retrieved October 15, 2013.
  13. ^ "Killings Illuminate Culture of White Supremacists". The New York Times. March 29, 1998. Retrieved October 15, 2013.
  14. ^ "U.S. v. Lee". Casetext. August 28, 2008. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  15. ^ Shortell, David; Sidner, Sara; Kravarik, Jason (December 12, 2019). "First federal prisoner to be executed in 17 years awaits ruling". KAVU Crossroads Today. CNN. Retrieved December 13, 2019. prosecutors in Arkansas had intended to argue for the same sentence for Lee, but they were overruled by officials at the Justice Department in Washington and directed to seek the death penalty for Lee
  16. ^ "Victims' Family Opposes Federal Execution of Daniel Lee". Equal Justice Initiative. November 7, 2019.
  17. ^ In re United States, 197 F.3d 310 (8th Cir. 1999).
  18. ^ United States v. Lee (2000), 89 F. Supp. 2d 1017 (E.D. Ark. 2000).
  19. ^ United States v. Lee (2001), 274 F.3d 485 (8th Cir. 2001).
  20. ^ United States v. Lee (2004), 374 F.3d 637 (8th Cir. 2004).
  21. ^ United States v. Lee (2013), 715 F.3d 215 (8th Cir. 2013).
  22. ^ United States v. Lee (2015), 792 F.3d 1021 (8th Cir. 2015).
  23. ^ Simpson, Stephen (July 25, 2019). "Executions of federal death row inmates set to resume; date scheduled for man convicted of killing Arkansas couple, 8-year-old girl". Arkansas Online. Retrieved July 28, 2019.
  24. ^ Dwyer, Colin (November 21, 2019). "Judge Blocks Justice Department's Plan To Resume Federal Executions". NPR.org. Retrieved November 21, 2019.
  25. ^ Chhetri, Priyam (December 5, 2019). "Execution of 'white supremacist' killer Daniel Lee Lewis stayed after victims' family demand clemency: 'The government is not doing this for me'". meaww.com. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  26. ^ "Supreme Court leaves temporary stop on federal executions in place". Catholic San Francisco. Catholic News Service. December 16, 2019. Retrieved December 17, 2019.
  27. ^ Covington, Olivia (December 11, 2019). "7th Circuit order would have allowed federal execution". The Indiana Lawyer. Retrieved December 17, 2019.
  28. ^ Liptak, Adam (December 6, 2019). "Supreme Court Won't Allow Federal Executions to Resume". The New York Times. Retrieved July 9, 2020.
  29. ^ Barr v. Roane, 140 S. Ct. 353 (U.S. 2019).
  30. ^ In re Fed. Bureau of Prisons' Execution Protocol Cases, No. 19-5322 (D.C. Cir. April 7, 2020).
  31. ^ a b c Liptak, Adam (June 29, 2020). "Federal Executions Can Restart After Supreme Court Declines a Case". The New York Times. Retrieved July 9, 2020.
  32. ^ "Daniel Lewis Lee: First US federal execution in 17 years to go ahead". BBC. July 13, 2020. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  33. ^ Johnson, Carrie (July 13, 2020). "Judge Orders Halt To Federal Executions That Were Set To Resume This Week". NPR. Retrieved July 13, 2020.
  34. ^ "Supreme Court clears way for resumption of federal executions". CBS News. Retrieved July 14, 2020.
  35. ^ "Daniel Lewis Lee: US executes first federal prisoner in 17 years". Yahoo! News. July 14, 2020. Retrieved July 14, 2020.
  36. ^ "FilmRise THE FBI FILES – Season 2 Episode 16 'Deadly Mission'". FilmRise. Discovery Channel. Archived from the original on April 4, 2017. Retrieved April 3, 2017.
  37. ^ "The FBI Files". TV.com. Retrieved April 3, 2017. ... the FBI File is one of Discovery Channel's highest rated series


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