TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – The U.S. government on Friday put to death an Iowa chemistry student-turned-meth kingpin convicted of killing five people, capping a week in which the Trump administration restored federal executions after a 17-year hiatus.
Dustin Honken, 52, who prosecutors said killed key witnesses to stop them from testifying in his drugs case, received a lethal injection at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana. Two others were also put to death during the week after a hiatus of nearly 20 years, including Wesley Purkey. His lawyers contended he had dementia and didn’t know why he was being executed.
The first in the spate federal executions happened Tuesday, when Daniel Lewis Lee was put to death for killing a family in the 1990s as part of a plot to build a whites-only nation. Lee’s execution, like Purkey’s, went ahead only after the U.S. Supreme Court gave it a green light in a 5-4 decision hours before.
Honken, who had been on death row since 2005, was pronounced dead at 4:36 p.m. The inmate — known for his verbosity at hearings and for a rambling statement declaring his innocence at sentencing — spoke only briefly, neither addressing victims’ family members nor saying he was sorry. His last words were, “Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for me.”
A Catholic priest, Honken's spiritual adviser, stood near him inside the death chamber. Honken spoke on his back, strapped to a gurney under a pale-green sheet. He didn't look toward witnesses behind a glass barrier, keeping his eyes firmly fixed on the ceiling.
Honken's lawyer, Shawn Nolan, said his client was “redeemed” and had repented for his crimes.
“There was no reason for the government to kill him, in haste or at all," Nolan said. "The man they killed today ... could have spent the rest of his days helping others and further redeeming himself.”
In a statement, Justice Department spokesperson Kerri Kupec said “just punishment has been carried out.”