Execution Ends 'Unprecedented Run'

Dustin Higgs was the last federal inmate put to death under the Trump administration
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 16, 2021 5:30 AM CST
Final Federal Execution Under Trump the 13th Since July
This 2015 photo shows Dustin Higgs at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind.   (Federal Bureau of Prisons/Federal Community Defender Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania via AP))

The Trump administration early Saturday carried out its 13th federal execution since July, an unprecedented run that concluded just five days before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden—an opponent of the federal death penalty. Dustin Higgs, convicted of ordering the killings of three women in a Maryland wildlife refuge in 1996, was the third to receive a lethal injection this week at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., reports the AP. Higgs, 48, was pronounced dead at 1:23am. Asked if he had any last words, Higgs was calm but defiant, naming each of the women whom prosecutors said he ordered killed. "I'd like to say I am an innocent man. ... I am not responsible for the deaths," he said softly. "I did not order the murders." He didn't apologize for anything he did on the night 25 years ago when the women were shot by another man, who received a life sentence.

In 2000, a federal jury in Maryland convicted Higgs of murder and kidnapping in the killings of Tamika Black, 19; Mishann Chinn, 23; and Tanji Jackson, 21. President Trump's Justice Department resumed federal executions last year following a 17-year hiatus. No president in more than 120 years had overseen as many federal executions. The number of federal death sentences carried out under Trump since 2020 is more than in the previous 56 years combined, reducing the number of prisoners on federal death row by nearly a quarter. Not since the waning days of Grover Cleveland's presidency in the late 1800s has the US government executed federal inmates during a presidential transition, per the Death Penalty Information Center. It's likely none of the around 50 remaining men on death row will be executed anytime soon, if ever, with Biden signaling he'll end federal executions.

(Read more execution stories.)

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