LITTLE ROCK — A federal appeals panel Monday upheld the death sentence imposed on a white supremacist convicted in 1999 of slaying an Arkansas family as part of a plot to establish a whites-only nation in the Pacific Northwest.
Daniel Lewis Lee of Yukon, Okla., was sentenced to death for his conviction for racketeering and three counts of murder in aid of racketeering. An accomplice, Chevie Kehoe of Colville, Wash., was convicted of the same charges and sentenced to life in prison. His conviction was upheld last week by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis.
Lee and Kehoe were convicted in the January 1996 killings of Searcy County gun dealer Bill Mueller, 53, his wife, Nancy Mueller, 28, and her 8-year-old daughter, Sara Powell. The bodies of the three, from the small community of Tilly, were found five months later in the Illinois Bayou near Russellville, with plastic bags tightly duct-taped over their heads.
Authorities said Lee and Kehoe were members of the Aryan Peoples’ Republic or the Aryan People’s Resistance, a white supremacist organization formed by Kehoe. The organization’s goal was to establish an independent nation of white members of the Christian Identity faith in the Pacific Northwest.
Federal prosecutors argued at their trial in Little Rock that Lee and Kehoe killed Mueller and his family to get his guns and about $50,000 they believed he had buried on his property. Lee and Kehoe were tried together, but had separate sentencing hearings.
In his appeal to the 8th Circuit, Lee argued that he had ineffective counsel during the jury selection process. He, like Kehoe in his appeal, argued that his attorney deliberately wanted as many black jurors as possible because he believed they were more likely to discredit the government and less likely to recommend the death penalty.
Of the 12 jurors, nine were black. Lee argued his attorney’s jury selection technique prejudiced the jury against him.
A three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit rejected his appeal in a unanimous decision Monday.
“The difference between Lee’s sentence of death and Kehoe’s sentence of life imprisonment does not show that Lee was prejudiced by counsel’s actions,” Judge Diana Murphy of Minneapolis, Minn., wrote in the court’s opinion. “The evidence against Lee and Kehoe was not identical, and the fact that the jury sentenced the two defendants differently supports that the jury was not simply motivated by racism to impose the death penalty.”