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Originally published Monday, April 29, 2013 at 2:14 PM

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Appeals court affirms execution in overthrow plot

A federal appeals panel on Monday upheld the death sentence of a man convicted in the slaying of an Arkansas family as part of a white-separatist plot to create a new nation in the Pacific Northwest.

Associated Press

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. —

A federal appeals panel on Monday upheld the death sentence of a man convicted in the slaying of an Arkansas family as part of a white-separatist plot to create a new nation in the Pacific Northwest.

Daniel Lee and his co-defendant, Chevie Kehoe, were convicted of murder, racketeering and other charges in the 1996 deaths of gun dealer William Mueller, his wife Nancy, and her 8-year-old daughter, Sarah Powell. Their bodies were found in a backwater of Illinois Bayou north of Russellville.

Kehoe drew a life sentence, while Lee was sentenced to death. Prosecutors had sought the death penalty against both defendants, who were tried together. A panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week turned away an appeal by Kehoe, who is in a high-security federal prison at Lee, Va.

Lee had sought a new trial and sentencing, arguing on appeal that his lawyer was ineffective during jury selection and that the death sentence was unconstitutional.

The three-judge panel that decided Lee's appeal noted that it earlier found there was no prejudice to his case by the government presenting evidence during sentencing that he was a psychopath.

"We conclude that the jury properly considered the aggravating actors advanced by the government in determining that Lee should be sentenced to death," the judges wrote.

Kehoe and Lee had separate sentencing hearings before the same jury during the 1999 trial.

Lee, who is locked up in a high-security prison in Terre Haute, Ind., argued that the jury, which had nine black members, was subjected to "an unrelenting barrage of accusations of abhorrent racist beliefs." He claimed his death sentence showed prejudice because Kehoe wasn't sentenced to execution.

The appeals panel disagreed.

"The jury accepted Kehoe's mitigation case, believing that he had been indoctrinated from a young age and would not be a future danger. By contrast, the jury rejected Lee's arguments for mitigation and instead found that he would be a future danger," the panel wrote.

Federal prosecutors didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. The public federal public defender's office had no immediate comment.

Prosecutors told jurors the men attacked the Arkansas family to steal William Mueller's guns to advance their scheme to create their own nation.

The government asserted that Kehoe and Lee engaged in a number of other illegal activities, including the bombing of City Hall at Spokane, Wash., and a shootout with Ohio police that was videotaped by a police car-mounted camera and broadcast nationwide.

The men were convicted in federal court in Little Rock of capital murder, racketeering and conspiracy. The latter charge was for their plot to overthrow the federal government and set up the whites-only nation.

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