When will Cory Johnson and Dustin Higgs be executed? Covid-19 diagnoses of death row inmates delay executions

Judge Tanya Chutkan of the US District Court in Washington ordered the US Department of Justice to extend their time on death row at least till March 16


                            When will Cory Johnson and Dustin Higgs be executed? Covid-19 diagnoses of death row inmates delay executions
Cory Johnson and Dustin Higgs' executions have been delayed (Richmond Police/Maryland Police)

Cory Johnson and Dustin Higgs' executions have been delayed. Judge Tanya Chutkan of the US District Court in Washington ordered the US Department of justice to extend their time on death row at least till March 16 as they recover after testing positive for coronavirus. The two condemned killers were scheduled to die on Thursday and Friday at the Justice Department's execution chamber in its prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.

According to The Mirror, their lawyers had argued that the virus had damaged their lung tissue, and the sentence of death by a legal dose of pentobarbital would make the death torture. "A person with Covid-19 related lung damage will experience flash pulmonary edema before the pentobarbital reaches the brain," Chutkan wrote in her ruling on Tuesday. She also added: "Though the Eighth Amendment does not guarantee a painless death, it does prohibit needless suffering."

The site also adds the ruling will most likely be challenged by the DOJ. The delayed execution now means the two men will die during new-President elect, Joe Biden's time in office. He is slated to be the new man-in-charge on January 20 and opposes the death penalty. According to Johnson and Higgs' lawyers, the damaged lung tissue would puncture more quickly with the administration of pentobarbital and this would mean, the men would experience pulmonary edema before dying. They called it a form of torture.

The 52-year-old Johnson was one of three members of the so-called “Newtowne gang” responsible for at least ten killings in a 45-day period in 1992. Earlier, His lawyers, in a joint statement to MEAWW, said: "Cory Johnson is a person with an intellectual disability. Yet, despite compelling evidence demonstrating his intellectual disability, no jury or court has ever listened to the evidence at a hearing to decide if he has an intellectual disability."

"Under federal law and pursuant to the Supreme Court’s decision in Atkins v Virginia, Mr. Johnson’s intellectual disability should prohibit his execution from being constitutionally carried out. We are not aware of any other federal death penalty prisoner who has never had a single evidentiary hearing at which he could present his intellectual disability evidence. The government should not proceed with Mr. Johnson’s execution in the absence of a thorough and fair opportunity for him to present this evidence."

Meanwhile, Higgs's crime was the kidnapping and ordering of the murders of three young women in Maryland in 1996. A jury in the US District Court for the District of Maryland, on October 11, 2000, found Higgs guilty of multiple 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.

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