The US Supreme Court has cleared the way for the first executions of federal prisoners after 17 years, the media reported on Tuesday. Several executions were delayed after a judge ruled on Monday that there were still unresolved legal challenges against the Justice Department, reports the BBC.

Among those facing the death penalty is triple murderer Daniel Lewis Lee, who was due to be executed on Monday but was blocked by a ruling from District Judge Tanya Chutkan. Lee was convicted of torturing and killing a family in Arkansas in 1996, dumping their bodies in a lake. The Supreme Court voted 5-4 that "executions may proceed as planned".

Owing Victims Justice

Three more federal executions are scheduled in the near future. All three prisoners are, like Lee, child killers. Last year, President Donald Trump's administration said it would resume federal executions.

US Supreme Court
Supreme Court Building, USA Pixabay

In a statement at the time, Attorney General William Barr said: "The Justice Department upholds the rule of law - and we owe it to the victims and their families to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system." The last inmate executed by the federal death penalty in 2003 was Louis Jones Jr, a 53-year-old Gulf War veteran who murdered 19-year-old soldier Tracie Joy McBride, the BBC reported.

Over 60 Inmates on Federal Death Row

The death penalty was outlawed at the state and federal levels by a 1972 Supreme Court decision that canceled all existing death penalty statutes. A 1976 Supreme Court decision allowed states to reinstate the death penalty and in 1988 the government passed legislation that made it available again at the federal level.

According to data collected by the Death Penalty Information Center, 78 people were sentenced to death in federal cases between 1988 and 2018 but only three were executed. There are 62 inmates currently on federal death row.