Dustin John Higg's federal execution is stopped on Friday, a federal judge's stay of execution. COVID-19 concerns have saved the inmate as he is one of those to be executed before January 20.
He is included as one of the last to be executed in the outgoing administration after the Department of Justice reinstated federal execution.
According to Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, the pandemic is why Higgs, 48, and Cory Johnson, 52, are infected with the coronavirus. Higgs is from Laurel, and Johnson is from Richmond, Virginia, reported The Baltimore Sun.
Lawyers of both inmates argue that lung damage from COVID exposure will put them at risk of suffering from fluid in the lungs or edema. If killed with a lethal injection, the edema will be painful before the drug kills them.
Further arguing that the sentenced men will suffer excruciating pain during the lethal injection. Adding it violates constitutional protection from cruel and unusual punishments that violates their rights.
Chutkan said both Higgs and Johnson would suffer a sensation that is like drowning to waterboarding. The judge granted a delay of the death sentences to March 16.
Having the stay of executions granted to Johnson and Higgs defers their scheduled appointment with a lethal injection. Their cases can be heard after the January 20 turnover of the administration and rumors of the abolishment of the death penalty.
But the judge's stay of execution may not be the last word. Last November, she gave the injunction to delay the death sentence of Orlando Hall. It did not last, and the Supreme court, with the dissent of Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan (liberals), allow the continuation of the execution on that night. The federal execution of Dustin John Higgs, which is compounded by COVID-19, should be considered.
The Justice Department filed a notice on Tuesday evening that will appeal that Chutkan's ruling is overturned.
On Tuesday night, the last appeal made to stop the death sentence failed, and the Supreme Court gave the go signal for Lisa Montgomery's execution, 52. She passed at 1:31 a.m. on early Wednesday morning with a lethal injection at the Terre Haute, Indiana, prison.
The case is in Maryland; Higgs got convicted for killing three women in 1996 at Prince George's County. He was tried in a federal court, not in state court. He committed the crimes in U.S.-owned land (government), the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.
According to the victim's families, his death sentence is right. Later the victim's family cannot be reached for comment on his execution.
Higgs and Johnson were judged guilty for the deaths of seven people in Virginia, part of the group scheduled for executions. There has been no execution in 17-years, but the current administration revived capital punishment. About ten were executed in 2020, with the final three scheduled before January 20.
Shawn Nolan said that his client "Higgs" got the coronavirus because of the "super-spreader executions" Terre Haute Penitentiary, Indiana. He added that his client is sick with the COVID-19, with pre-existing health issues.
He added that the federal execution of Dustin John Higgs needs reviewing because of the circumstances. It is the incoming president Joe Biden who sponsor the 1994 Crime Bill that enabled the executions.