Dustin Higgs, Federal

 

Updated: Saturday, January 16, 2021 

Dustin Higgs has been executed by the federal government.  Read more here.

Updated: Friday, January 15, 2021 

The Supreme Court of the United States has cleared the way for the execution of Dustin Higgs.

Updated: Friday, January 15, 2021 

The execution of Dustin Higgs was scheduled to begin at 6 pm local time, however, the start of the execution has been delayed due to pending appeals.

Updated: Thursday, January 14, 2021 

U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia have vacated the preliminary injunction granted earlier this week that halted the executions of Dustin Higgs and Cory (Corey) Johnson.  Further, the stay of execution granted by U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan has also been lifted by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Updated: Tuesday, January 12, 2021 

U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan has issued a stay of execution for Dustin Higgs and Corey (Cory) Johnson over concerns that executing them before they have completely recovered from their COVID-19 diagnosis would result in an execution that would violate their 8th Amendment rights.  The government has announced that they are appealing this decision.  Both inmates argued that the execution by pentobarbital would cause "flash pulmonary edema," resulting in needless and excruciating pain as a result of lung damage from the virus.

Updated: Monday, January 11, 2021

Dustin John Higgs is scheduled to be executed on Friday, January 15, 2021, at the Federal Correction Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana.  A preliminary injunction has been issued. Forty-eight-year-old Dustin is convicted of murdering 21-year-old Tanji Jackson, 19-year-old Tamika Black, and 23-year-old Mishann Chinn, on January 27, 1996, in Prince George County, in Maryland. Dustin has spent the last 20 years on federal death row.

Dustin had a sad childhood. His father was uninvolved in his life and his mother died when he was 10 years old from cancer. He then went to live with extended family, where he experienced several deaths, some of which were violent. Dustin had to repeat second grade but was an average student throughout high school, where he was involved in sports and graduated at 19. At the time of his arrest, Dustin had a four-year-old son and was involved in the lives of relatives’ children.

On Friday, January 26, 1996, Dustin Higgs and Tanji Jackson had arranged for some of their friends to go out. Higgs brought Willie Mark Haynes and Victor Gloria to Tanji’s apartment, where she was waiting with Tamika Black and Mishann Chinn. The three couples went out, returning to Higgs’s apartment after buying alcohol. While at the apartment, the men smoked marijuana.

During the early morning hours of January 27, Higgs and Tanji began arguing. Tanji grabbed a knife from the kitchen. Haynes and Tamika heard the commotion and came out to break up the fight. Haynes talked to Tanji and got the knife away from her, however she was still mad and three woman left. Victor testified that Tanji made a threat as she left. Higgs saw Tanji appear to write down his license plate number as she left, and he thought she was going to retaliate against him.

 

Shortly thereafter, Higgs grabbed his coat and a weapon and told the two guys to come with him. They got into his van and found the woman walking on the side of the road. Higgs told the women to get into the vehicle and he began driving them towards Tanji’s apartment, however he drove past the exit to her apartment. Victor observed Higgs and Haynes have a whispered conversation during the drive.

 

Upon returning to the apartment, the men wiped down every surface the woman may have touched and disposed of what they could. Higgs and Haynes dropped off Victor and warned him not to say anything. The bodies of Tanji Jackson, Tamika Black, and Mishann Chinn were found later that morning. Found at the scene was Tanji’s day planner, which had Higgs’s nickname and telephone number in it. Another page had Higgs’s address, license number and model of car that Higgs drove.

 

Higgs was the immediate suspect in the murder, however he was not arrested until three years later. When police first interviewed Higgs, he acknowledged knowing Tanji and possibly even seeing her the night before she died, but denied that she had ever been to his apartment. Higgs says he learned of the deaths while attending a party and that he commented to another guest that he though he knew “that Tanji woman.” However, police did not release names and photographs of the victims to the media until the following day.

 

Higgs was eventually arrested on federal drug charges and on May 12, 1997, pled guilty to possession with intent to distribute, leaving him with a 17 year sentence. Higgs’s alibi for the night eventually fell apart when the woman he claimed to be with recanted her testimony. During the investigation, police also connected Higgs to two other shootings, one on November 20, 1995, outside Chaconia Nightclub, and another on December 10, 1995, at a home in Laurel, Maryland. In 1997, Higgs pled guilty to the latter murder, while the charges for the former shooting were dismissed.

 

On December 21, 1998, Higgs and Haynes were both indicted for the kidnapping and murder of the three women. Haynes was tried first and a jury was unable to reach an unanimous verdict for capital punishment resulting in him being sentenced to concurrent life terms for kidnapping and murder and a consecutive term of 45 years for a firearm offense. Higgs was tried next and received a sentence of death for each of the murders and kidnapping. The jury determined that Higgs had ordered the murders.

 

Attorneys for Dustin Higgs are asking the federal government to withdraw Dustin's execution date, in response to Dustin testing positive for the coronavirus.  Dustin is the first known inmate on federal death row to test positive for the virus.  His attorneys, who had previously raised concerns about Dustin contracting the virus prior to his federal execution, fear his condition will present complex health issues, which could affect the execution. Dustin was placed in isolation following his postive test result but is no longer in islolation. Despite no longer being in isolation, Dustin's lawyers report that he is still experiencing some symptoms.

 

Dustin has also asked President Donald Trump to grant him clemency.  In the petition, Higgs notes the fact that he did not personally kill anyone, and that the man that did the killing, was granted a life sentence.

 

A lawsuit filed by two inmates at the federal facility where executions are carried out have filed a lawsuit arguing that holding the executions creates a "substantial risk" of spreading COVID-19.  Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson of the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Indiana has issued a preliminary injunction ahead of the executions. According to the preliminary injunction, the executions cannot be carried out unless the Department of Justice follows the guidance outlined by Judge Magnus-Stinson in the ruling.

 

Pray for peace and healing for the families of Tanji Jackson, Tamika Black, and Mishann Chinn. Pray for the strength for the family of Dustin. Pray that if Dustin is innocent, lacks the competency to be executed, or should not be executed for any other reason, evidence will be presented prior to his execution. Pray that Dustin may come to find peace through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, if he has not already.

 

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