U.S. government executes third man this week after 17-year hiatus

Dustin Lee Honken, a convicted murderer, was pronounced dead at 4:36 p.m. EDT (2036 GMT) after an executioner injected him with a powerful barbiturate at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

Efforts by President Donald Trump’s administration to resume executions were under way soon after the Republican took office. His administration has now completed as many federal executions in a few days as were carried out in the preceding 57 years.

Lawyers for the condemned men have amassed legal challenges, which include arguments that the Justice Department’s new one-drug lethal-injection protocol breaches a constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishments. The arguments were rejected twice this week in overnight rulings by a 5-4 majority in the Supreme Court.

Honken, 52, was a dealer in illegal methamphetamine when he and his girlfriend murdered five people in Iowa in 1993, including a government informant and two girls aged 10 and 6. He was convicted in 2004.

His execution began at 4:06 p.m., when he was asked for any final words after being strapped to a gurney.

“Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for me,” he said, according to a media witness who provided an account of the execution to news outlets.

After being injected with pentobarbital, his breathing became more labored. He turned ashen white as blood drained from his face and hands, and his breathing gradually became shallower. It took about 30 minutes before he could be pronounced dead, the media witness said.

Shawn Nolan, one of Honken’s lawyers, said Honken had embraced his Catholic faith in prison and repented for his crimes and spent time atoning for them.

“There was no reason for the government to kill him, in haste or at all,” Nolan said in a statement. “In any case, they failed. The Dustin Honken they wanted to kill is long gone. The man they killed today was a human being, who could have spent the rest of his days helping others and further redeeming himself.”


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