Thu, 04 Mar 2021

Washington [US], January 16 (ANI): Outgoing US President Donald Trump's administration carried out its last federal execution when Dustin John Higgs, convicted of kidnapping and murdering three women in 1996, was executed in the early hours of Saturday.

Higgs became the 13th and last federal death row inmate to be executed since the US Justice Department restarted federal executions in July 2019, CNN reported.

Until his death, Higgs maintained his innocence, and the tone of his voice was calm but defiant as he said his final words, according to a pool report.

"I'd like to say I am an innocent man... I did not order the murders," he said while mentioning the three women by name.

Higgs' victims were Tamika Black, 19; Tanji Jackson, 21; and Mishann Chinn, 23.

According to CNN, 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.

In January 1996, Higgs along with two friends drove to Washington DC to pick up Black, Jackson, and Chinn, whom Higgs had invited to his apartment in Laurel, Maryland, according to a Department of Justice statement.

At the apartment, Jackson rebuffed an advance by Higgs and the women left. Higgs offered the women a ride back to DC, but instead drove to a secluded area in the Patuxent National Wildlife Refuge.

He ordered the women out of the vehicle, gave a gun to one of the friends, and said, "better make sure they're dead." The other man shot Black and Jackson in the chest and back, and shot Chinn in the back of the head, killing all three women, CNN cited the statement.

Later in 2000, a Maryland jury found Higgs guilty of numerous federal offenses, including three counts of first-degree premeditated murder, three counts of first-degree felony murder, and three counts of kidnapping resulting in death, and unanimously recommended nine death sentences, which the court imposed, the statement said.

In July 2019, then-Attorney General William Barr had resumed federal executions after a 17-year hiatus to "bring justice to victims of the most horrific crimes".

The federal government has authorised the executions of 13 federal death row inmates in about six months, CNN reported.

Meanwhile, President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to abolish the federal death penalty and to provide incentives to states for stopping death sentences as a part of his criminal justice plan.

Biden's campaign has actively spoken out against the death penalty, citing the amount of wrongfully convicted inmates who have been given these sentences. (ANI)

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