ACLU Statement on the 13th and Final Federal Execution

January 16, 2021 12:30 am

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TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — The federal government carried out the execution of Dustin Higgs — a Black man who did not kill anyone — shortly after 1 a.m., marking the 13th federal execution in just six months. This was the final execution of the Trump presidency, and it will be the last federal execution this country ever holds if President-elect Biden makes good on his promise to end the federal death penalty.

Cassandra Stubbs, director of the ACLU’s Capital Punishment Project, issued the following statement:

“Tonight marks the end of a cruel, inhumane, and lawless federal execution spree. Over the last six months, we have witnessed the federal government execute 13 individuals in our name, often in the middle of the night, and over the objections of lower courts. Our federal government killed two Black men for crimes they committed 20 years ago as teenagers; it killed a woman who was a victim of unthinkable sexual violence and torture; it killed two Black men who didn’t kill anyone; and a man with an intellectual disability so severe that it’s impossible to ignore in his final words. The Supreme Court paved the way for many of these executions to go forward despite lower court findings that the executions were unconstitutional or barred by federal law. These executions were not justice — they simply perpetuated a cycle of pain, trauma, and bloodlust.

“These executions became super-spreader events, and Terre Haute shot up to become the federal prison with the most cases of COVID-19. At a moment when more Americans are dying daily than did in 9/11, our federal government rushed forward to carry out executions that spread COVID-19 around Indiana and to the communities the Bureau of Prison staff returned home to. As people across the country are struggling to find work and pay rent, the federal government spent nearly a million dollars to kill each person it put to death.

“President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to end the federal death penalty. He must honor that commitment, and he must begin this work by taking steps fully within his power: He must commute the sentences of people on the federal death row to life without parole, and he must drop death from all pending trials. This swift action is the only adequate response to the degrading and unconstitutional execution spree and to ensure that the federal government is never able to do this again.”

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