Lee v. Watson, No. 20-2128 (7th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
In 1996, Lee and Kehoe, members of a white supremacist organization, traveled from Washington to the Arkansas home of Mueller, a firearms dealer. After stealing about $30,000 worth of weapons and $50,000 in cash and coins, the two stunned Mueller, his wife, and his eight-year-old daughter and sealed plastic bags over their heads, then threw them into the Illinois Bayou. The bodies were discovered months later. The two were convicted under 18 U.S.C. 1959(a)(1). Kehoe’s jury returned a verdict of life in prison. At Lee’s sentencing, prosecutors introduced evidence of his involvement in a 1990 Oklahoma murder; the government’s expert testified that Lee had a test score in the psychopathy range. The Eighth Circuit affirmed Lee’s death sentence. Lee pursued collateral review. The government scheduled Lee’s execution for December 2019. He again sought relief. The district court stayed Lee’s execution.
The Seventh Circuit vacated the stay, stating that Lee’s likelihood of success on the merits was “slim” because both claims—Brady claims alleging suppression of exculpatory evidence and Strickland claims alleging ineffective assistance of counsel—are “regularly made and resolved under section 2255,” so the remedy cannot be called “inadequate or ineffective” for purposes of the Savings Clause in section 2241. The evidence Lee claims is “newly discovered” was known to him and publicly available in the court record of his Oklahoma murder case. Lee’s execution was rescheduled for July 13, 2020. The judge denied Lee’s Rule 59 motion. The Seventh Circuit denied relief, finding Lee’s arguments frivolous.