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Death row killer who said he’s innocent is final man put to death under Trump
January 16, 2021
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The last person to be executed under the Trump administration has been put to death after recovering from Covid-19.
Dustin Higgs, 48, who has always maintained his innocence, was killed by the US federal government on Friday.
He received a lethal injection at the Terre Haute prison complex in Indiana, where another death row inmate had been executed the day before.
In 2000 a Maryland jury found Higgs guilty of the first-degree murder and kidnapping of Tamika Black, Mishann Chinn, and Tanji Jackson in 1996.
The three women had been fatally shot after partying with Higgs and two of his friends, Willis Haynes, and Victor Gloria at Higgs' apartment the night before the murder.
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Although Higgs was convicted of overseeing the kidnapping and murder of the three women, he did not personally kill any of them which his lawyers have said should clear him for clemency.
But Donald Trump, in the final days of his presidency, has pressed ahead with plans for his execution. His administration has carried out 12 federal executions in the last six months — the first in 17 years. Higgs is the 13th and final inmate put to death under the administration.
Six, including Higgs, have been carried out in a "lame duck period", meaning the time between an election and the inauguration of a new president.
This hasn't been seen in the US in over a century, and has earned President Trump a great deal of criticism and accusations of cruelty.
Higgs was the last death row inmate scheduled for execution under Trump's administration.
His lawyers appealed his death sentence last month on the grounds that the state of Maryland abolished the death penalty in 2013.
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The law states that "a federal execution shall be carried out in accordance with the laws of the state in which the defendant was sentenced", they argued.
The situation was complicated further when Higgs and another death row inmate, Corey Johnson, were diagnosed with coronavirus last month.
Lethal injection is a process that often causes pulmonary edema, where fluid enters the lungs while the person is still conscious and creates a painful experience similar to drowning or suffocating.
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Experts within the medical field have warned receiving an overdose of pentobarbital – used with lethal injections – would likely make it more painful for those recovering from coronavirus, as the virus damages the lungs.
A federal judge found the warnings credible, and issued a stay of execution for both Johnson and Higgs until March.
But the government appealed and the US Supreme Court ruled for Johnson's killing to go ahead at 4am GMT on Saturday.
Johnson was still experiencing coronavirus symptoms when he was executed on Thursday.
In the lead up to Higgs' death, his lawyers were involved in a tense legal battle where they argued staff involved in a different execution at the same prison were not adhering to social distancing rules.
They argued that the staff should be held in contempt for violating a court's preliminary injunction order and further executions at Terre Haute should be barred due to not complying to the restrictions.
Higgs is the third person to be executed this week.
Notorious "womb raider" killer Lisa Montgomery, who murdered pregnant Bobbie Jo Stinnett and ripped the baby from her uterus in 2004, received a lethal injection on Wednesday.
She was the first woman to be executed on federal death row since 1953.