The Justice Department executed 48-year-old Dustin Higgs at the Terre Haute federal penitentiary in Indiana on Friday night, marking the 13th execution the Trump Administration has pushed through while in office.
Higgs was convicted and put on death row in 2000 for kidnapping and ordering the killing of three women, but maintained his innocence to his dying moment reports CNN.
The tone of his voice was calm but defiant as he said his last words, “I’d like to say I am an innocent man,” he said, mentioning the three women by name. “I did not order the murders,” the report said.
Higgs’ victims were Tamika Black, 19; Tanji Jackson, 21; and Mishann Chinn, 23.
Higgs’ execution went forward despite his attorney, Shawn Nolan’s appeal to delay the proceeding because of Higgs’ Covid-19 diagnosis. Nolan also argued that Higgs was unfairly sentenced, since the actual gunman is serving a life sentence.
Higgs’ execution was initially scheduled for the 92nd birthday of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Higgs and two other men—Victor Gloria and William Haynes—Black, Jackson, and Chinn to a secluded wildlife refuge in 1996, where Gloria testified that Higgs ordered Haynes to shoot them.
Higgs is the final person put to death by the federal government under President Trump, who has less than a week left in office and has overseen more executions than any other president in over 120 years according to AP.
Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor wrote a dissent against Higgs’ execution on Friday, in which she listed the names of everyone put to death by Trump’s Justice Department despite many final legal appeals to stay their executions.
“The Federal Government will have executed more than three times as many people in the last six months than it had in the previous six decades,” Sotomayor pointed out.
Among them are Brandon Bernard, who was executed by lethal injection in December after spending over 20 years on death row for the killing of two youth ministers in Fort Hood, Texas, and Lisa Montgomery, the first woman to be executed in the U.S. in almost 70 years.
“The Court has allowed the United States to execute thirteen people in six months under a statutory scheme and regulatory protocol that have received inadequate scrutiny, without resolving the serious claims the condemned individuals raised,” Sotomayor wrote in her dissent. “Those whom the Government executed during this endeavor deserved more from this Court.’
President-elect Joe Biden, who takes over the Oval Office on Wednesday, has pledged to eliminate the death penalty at the federal level. Congressional Democrats have already signaled their plans to introduce legislation that would prohibit the federal death penalty, noting that it “is disproportionately imposed on Black and brown and low-income people in America.”