Who is death row inmate Dustin John Higgs and what did he do?

DUSTIN John Higgs is a federal prisoner who is set to be executed this month for his role in the 1996 murder of three black women in Maryland.

The 48-year-old is one of 53 prisoners on death row in the United States.

Who is Dustin John Higgs?

Dustin John Higgs is an inmate on death row who is due to be executed on January 15, 2021.

Higgs, 48, was the first federal inmate to contract Covid.

Higgs' attorneys have called on the Department of Justice to withdraw his execution date after he became sick with the virus.

Higgs and inmate Cory Johnson are awaiting a ruling on litigation jointly filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to halt their executions.

Should Higgs be put to death on January 15, he will be executed at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana.

The litigation states that the execution would be a violation of the US constitution's Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment while Higgs is still recovering from the coronavirus.

Nine people were executed last year as the Trump administration rushed to put inmates to death ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration.

Out of the 53 inmates on death row, 22 of those prisoners are white, 23 are black, seven are Latino and one is Asian.

This number includes one person whose death sentence reversal is still subject to a possible appeal.

Why is he on death row?

Higgs is on death row for kidnapping and murdering three women – 19-year-old Tamika Black, 21-year-old Tanji Jackson, and 23-year-old Mishann Chinn – in Maryland.

In January 1996, Higgs and two friends drove from Washington, DC to Maryland to pick up Black, Jackson, and Chinn, whom Higgs had invited to his apartment in Laurel, Maryland.

Once at the apartment, Higgs made advances towards Jackson, which she rejected, and the girls ultimately all left together.

Higgs offered to take the women back to Washington DC, but instead, a secluded area in the Patuxent National Wildlife Refuge, ordered the women out of the vehicle, gave a gun to one of the friends, and said, “better make sure they’re dead.” 

One of Higgs' friends shot Black and Jackson in the chest and back, and then shot Chinn in the back of the head, killing all three women.

How long has he been in prison?

On October 11, 2000, a jury in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland found Higgs guilty of numerous federal offenses.

These offenses including three counts of first-degree premeditated murder, three counts of first-degree felony murder, and three counts of kidnapping resulting in death.

A jury unanimously recommended nine death sentences which the court imposed.

Higgs' convictions were affirmed on appeal.

Higgs' attorneys have argued that his co-defendant, Willis Haynes, was the sole shooter in the case and that Higgs himself did not kill anyone. Haynes was tried separately and was not sentenced to death.

"There is no principled basis to execute Dustin Higgs given that the shooter in this case is serving a life sentence and the trial prosecutors actively misled the jury in Dustin's case," Shawn Nolan, one of Higgs' attorneys, said in a statement to Newsweek.

"The government should not carry out yet another super-spreader execution in the heart of this global pandemic. The DOJ should withdraw Dustin's execution date or President Trump should commute his death sentence."

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