US executes second prisoner in 17 years

By AAP Newswire

The US federal government has executed its second prisoner this week following a 17-year pause after the US Supreme Court again intervened to allow the execution to proceed, overturning a lower court ruling that had blocked it.

The Justice Department executed convicted murderer Wesley Purkey by lethal injection, and he was pronounced dead at 8.19am local time at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, a Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman said.

The execution had been blocked by a federal court but the Supreme Court overruled it, just as it did in another case on Tuesday, and putting the federal government back in the business of executing prisoners.

"This sanitised murder really does not serve no purpose whatsoever. Thank you," a remorseful Purkey said in his final words, according to a reporter who was allowed to witness the killing and share notes with the media.

Purkey, 68, was convicted in 2003 in Missouri of raping and murdering 16-year-old Jennifer Long before dumping her dismembered and burned remains in a septic pond.

His lawyers argued he had dementia and brain damage caused by Alzheimer's disease and no longer understood his punishment, though he had accepted responsibility for his crime.

Killing him would breach the US constitution, they said.

"I deeply regret the pain and suffering I caused to Jennifer's family. I am deeply sorry. I deeply regret the pain I caused to my daughter, who I love so very much," Purkey said after he was strapped to a gurney inside the execution chamber, his arms tied to side boards, and an intravenous syringe was inserted into his right arm.

Before Tuesday, when the Justice Department executed convicted killer Daniel Lee in Terre Haute, the federal government had only executed three people since 1963, all from 2001 to 2003.

In Indiana, a meth kingpin from Iowa who killed five people, including two young girls, is scheduled on Friday to become the third federal inmate to be executed this week.

Dustin Honken, 52, was sentenced to death for killing government informants and children in his effort to thwart his drug trafficking prosecution in 1993.

Honken is set to die by a lethal injection at the federal prison in Terre Haute, where he's been on death row since 2005. His lawyers are making last-minute pleas for a reprieve, but their chances of success seem remote after the Supreme Court had reversed lower-court orders seeking to block this week's two earlier executions.