Dustin Higgs: Maryland man to be executed on Jan 15 for murdering three women, lawyer says 'he didn't kill'
'It would be arbitrary and inequitable to punish Mr Higgs more severely than the person who committed the murders'
Dustin John Higgs, a Maryland resident accused of kidnapping and murdering three women in 1996, has been scheduled by the federal government to be executed on January 15, 2021. Higgs' lawyers, however, state that he should not be executed because he "did not kill anyone."
One evening in January 1996, Higgs and his two friends drove to Washington DC to pick up three women, Tamika Black, 19, Tanji Jackson, 21, and Mishann Chinn, 23, whom Higgs had invited to his apartment in Laurel, Maryland. According to prosecutors, Higgs made advances on Jackson who rebuffed and left along with the other women. Higgs reportedly offered them a ride back home. However, he drove to a secluded area in the Patuxent National Wildlife Refuge, asked them to get out of the car, and handed a gun to one of his friends, saying: "Better make sure they’re dead." The other man reportedly shot Black and Jackson in the chest and back, and shot Chinn in the back of the head, killing all three women.
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. The jury also unanimously recommended nine death sentences, which were eventually imposed by the court.
Attorney for Higgs, Shawn Nolan, in a statement to MEAWW, said: "Dustin Higgs did not kill anyone and should not be executed. All witnesses agree that the sole shooter was Mr Higg’s co-defendant, Willis Haynes, who was tried separately and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of release. It would be arbitrary and inequitable to punish Mr Higgs more severely than the person who committed the murders."
“Although compelling evidence was available at time of the trial and would have supported a plea for life, the jury that sentenced Mr Higgs to death did not hear all of the mitigating information showing he is not ‘the worst of the worst,’ because his attorneys failed to develop and present it fully. Mr Higgs deserves clemency because of the unfair sentencing disparity in case, and because, despite the tragedy and hardship of his early life, he has been a model prisoner and is an active parent who is essential to the well-being of his son," Nolan added.
They also argued that Higgs' traumatic childhood also mitigated his crime. The father of the convict, who has been on death row for nearly 20 years, was a drug dealer who was largely absent from his life and whose limited interactions with Mr Higgs were abusive in nature. Higgs' mother passed away from breast cancer when he was just ten years old. He was eventually raised by his aunt. His mother's sickness and death reportedly had a huge impact on Higgs, emotionally.
Higgs' attorneys have also argued that their client was prosecuted on the unreliable theory that he ordered Haynes to kill the victims. That theory was reportedly supported exclusively by the contested testimony of Victor Gloria, a cooperating co-defendant and Higgs' other friend on the night of the killing. Higgs' legal team said that Gloria received a substantial deal in exchange for his cooperation, and argued that a federal death verdict should not rest on flimsy testimony as they asked for clemency for their client.