The U.S. authorities early on Saturday carried out the thirteenth and remaining federal execution below President Donald Trump’s administration, simply days earlier than President-elect Joe Biden takes workplace with a promise to attempt to finish the dying penalty.
Dustin Higgs, 48, was pronounced useless at 1:23 a.m. EST (0623 GMT), the federal Bureau of Prisons mentioned in a press release.
5 hours after he was set to be executed, the U.S. Supreme Courtroom’s conservative majority cleared the way in which for deadly injections to proceed, overturning a keep ordered by a federal appeals courtroom.
Higgs was convicted and sentenced to dying in 2001 for overseeing the kidnapping and homicide of three ladies on a federal wildlife reserve in Maryland in 1996: Tanji Jackson, Tamika Black and Mishann Chinn.
In his remaining phrases, Higgs sounded calm and defiant, based on a reporter who served as a media witness.
“I’d prefer to say I’m an harmless man,” he mentioned, mentioning the three ladies by title. “I didn’t order the murders.”
The Division of Justice executed him with deadly injections of pentobarbital, a strong barbiturate, at its dying chamber in its jail in Terre Haute, Indiana.
“The federal government accomplished its unprecedented slaughter of 13 human beings tonight by killing Dustin Higgs, a Black man who by no means killed anybody, on Martin Luther King’s birthday,” Shawn Nolan, one in all Higgs’ attorneys, mentioned in a press release.
“Dustin spent a long time on dying row in solitary confinement serving to others round him, whereas working tirelessly to battle his unjust convictions.”
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The Supreme Courtroom’s ruling was per its earlier selections: it had dismissed all orders by decrease courts delaying federal executions since they have been resumed final yr.
“This isn’t justice,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in dissent. “After ready nearly twenty years to renew federal executions, the Authorities ought to have proceeded with some measure of restraint to make sure it did so lawfully. When it didn’t, this Courtroom ought to have. It has not.”
The federal authorities executed 10 folks final yr, greater than 3 times as many as within the earlier six a long time, marking the primary time that it had performed extra executions than all U.S. states mixed, based on a database compiled by the Demise Penalty Data Middle. A minority of the nation’s 50 states nonetheless perform executions.
Higgs was the thirteenth particular person executed by the U.S. authorities in a unprecedented spree begun final summer time by Trump, a Republican, after a 17-year hiatus on the federal degree. Solely three folks since 1963 had been executed by the federal authorities earlier than Trump.
After a failed triple date with the three ladies, Higgs and confederate Willis Haynes supplied to drive them house however as an alternative took them to the Patuxent Analysis Refuge. Prosecutors mentioned Higgs gave Haynes a gun and instructed him to shoot the three ladies.
Haynes, who confessed to being the shooter, was sentenced to life in jail whereas Higgs was sentenced to dying in a separate trial, a disparity that his attorneys say was grounds for clemency.
Higgs and one other dying row inmate, Corey Johnson, have been identified with COVID-19 in December, however on Wednesday the Supreme Courtroom rejected an order by a federal choose in Washington delaying their executions for a number of weeks to permit their lungs to heal. The Justice Division executed Johnson on Thursday night time.
(Reporting by Jonathan Allen in Terre Haute, Indiana, and Bhargav Acharya in Bengaluru; Enhancing by William Mallard)