Dustin Higgs: Trump administration carries out 13th and final execution

A 13th death row prisoner has been executed under Donald Trump – the last in an almost unprecedented spree of federal killings approved by an American president.

Dustin Higgs, who ordered the murder of three women in a wildlife refuge in 1996, was given a lethal injection at an Indiana prison on Saturday morning.

The 48-year-old’s death adds to Mr Trump’s macabre tally: no president since the 19th century has overseen so many executions.

So many capital punishments have been waved through – all since July – that Mr Trump has reduced the numbers on federal death row by almost a quarter.

Especially galling to opponents of the death penalty has been that six of the 13 have been carried out since Mr Trump lost November’s election to Joe Biden, a fierce critic of the system.

Higgs, himself, was pronounced dead at 1:23am.

In his final statement, he repeated his claim that he was innocent. “I did not order the murders,” he said.

It followed 21 years after he was convicted of kidnapping and killing three women Tamika Black, 19, Mishann Chinn, 23, and Tanji Jackson, 21, on the night of 26 January 1996.

The trio – who all worked with children – had spent the evening at Higgs’ apartment in Laurel, Maryland, after meeting him and two other men, Willis Haynes and Victor Gloria, on a night out.

At some point, the court heard, an argument had broken out and the women had left but the three men had followed them, persuaded them to get into Higgs’s van and then drove them out to secluded spot in the nearby Patuxent National Wildlife Refuge.

“Aware at that point that something was amiss, one of the women asked if they were going to have to ‘walk from here’ and Higgs responded ‘something like that’,” said a later appeals court ruling which upheld Higgs’s death sentence.

After parking up, Higgs handed a pistol to Haynes, who shot all three women outside the van, Gloria testified.

“Gloria turned to ask Higgs what he was doing, but saw Higgs holding the steering wheel and watching the shootings from the rearview mirror,” said the 2013 ruling by a three-judge panel of the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals.

The father-of-one always denied he had ordered the killing, and his lawyers argued it was “arbitrary and inequitable” to execute him while Haynes was spared the death sentence.

In a statement after the execution, his attorney, Shawn Nolan, said: “The government completed its unprecedented slaughter of 13 human beings tonight by killing Dustin Higgs, a black man who never killed anyone, on Martin Luther King’s birthday.

“There was no reason to kill him, particularly during the pandemic and when he, himself, was sick with Covid that he contracted because of these irresponsible, super-spreader executions.”

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