Dustin John Higgs, executed in the early hours of this Saturday morning, has become the thirteenth and last federal prisoner to die under Donald Trump since the Department of Justice restarted this type of executions in July 2019.
Higgs had been convicted of kidnapping and ordering the murders of three women in 1996, although he maintained his innocence until his death. “I would like to say that I am an innocent man. I did not order the murders,” according to the latest statements from him collected by CNN. The perpetrator of the shots was a companion of the inmate, Willis Haynes, sentenced to life imprisonment.
The Higgs victims were 19-year-old Tamika Black; Tanji Jackson, 21 years old; and Mishann Chinn, 23.
The US Supreme Court refused to stop the execution, although some judges disagreed, such as Sonia Sotomayor, who lamented the “unprecedented urgency” that has surrounded this case. “After waiting nearly two decades to resume federal executions, the government should have acted with some restraint to make sure it did so legally,” she said.
Higgs’s execution continued anyway despite an appeal from his lawyer, Shawn Nolan, who asked for a postponement because Higgs was suffering from coronavirus and, generally speaking, it was an unfair sentence given that the person responsible for the shooting, Haynes, already he was serving a life sentence.
The United States resumed executions at the federal level in July last year on the orders of the country’s attorney general, William Barr, after a 16-year moratorium. Before Trump took office, only three federal executions had taken place in this period.
Barr argued that federal executions are contemplated by Congress and the latter are directed against “those responsible for the murder, and sometimes torture and rape, of the most vulnerable in society, children and the elderly.”
Barr’s words marked the official announcement of the end of an informal moratorium on the death penalty since the 2003 execution of Louis Jones. However, capital punishment has continued to be applied in each of the 29 states in which it is contemplated.