In response to sharp objections, the court intervened to allow the federal government to execute the thirteenth person within six months-SCOTUSblog


On Friday, the Supreme Court allowed the federal government to execute Dustin Higgs (Dustin Higgs), overturned a lower court order that put the death penalty on hold, and solicited strong opposition from two judges.

The execution of Higgs is the third federal execution this week, and finally the trump card government elected President-elect Biden, who opposed the death penalty to carry out the death penalty before his inauguration.

in a Short, unsigned ruling The judge issued the announcement at about 11 p.m., overturning the federal district judge, who concluded last month that he had no authority to approve the execution. The judges bypassed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which has suspended the death penalty this week to allow time for the court to consider the final legal issues in the case.

This question is a technical one: even if Higgs is convicted in Maryland and his sentencing order does not specify that he can be executed under Indiana law, whether the government is allowed to manage Higgs’ execution under Indiana law.

Most judges of the Supreme Court ruled that the government’s plan is permitted. The court relied on a rarely used procedure to take over the case from the Court of Appeals and designated Indiana as the governing law, a decision that allowed the government to immediately begin executions.

Judges Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan said they would not allow the execution to proceed. Breyer and Sotomayor each expressed their dissent, expressing regret over the recent mass executions and the role of the court in allowing executions. In the past six months, the federal government executed 13 people and won every death penalty appeal to the Supreme Court during this period.

“After waiting for nearly two decades to resume federal executions, the government should take certain restraint measures to ensure that it acts legally,” Sotomayor wrote. “If not, the court should have it. It doesn’t.”

The 48-year-old Higgs received a lethal injection. Was pronounced dead at 1:23 on Saturday morning.

The Supreme Court’s ruling on Friday night was made approximately 24 hours later. Reject urgent appeal Higgs filed a lawsuit with Corey Johnson, another death row inmate. Both Higgs and Johnson recently contracted COVID-19 in prison, and they argued that the lung damage caused by this virus would pose a risk of undue pain during the lethal vaccine. The court rejected their request to suspend the execution of the death penalty from the virus. Johnson was executed Thursday night.

But the final legal obstacle prevented the government from planning to implement Higgs’ plan on Friday. According to the Federal Death Penalty Act, a death sentence made in a federal court must be “executed in the manner prescribed by the law of the state that imposed the death penalty.” If the underlying state does not have a death penalty procedure, the federal court that imposed the death penalty must designate another state as the executioner Related Laws.

Higgs was convicted in a federal court in Maryland in 2000 for the killing of three women (Tamika Black, Tangi Jackson and Mishan Chin) in the Patuxent National Wildlife Refuge. When he was sentenced, his official sentencing sentence implied that Maryland law governed his execution. But Maryland abolished the death penalty in 2013. This means that the government no longer needs to apply any laws in Maryland under the Federal Death Penalty Act.

Last year, when the Justice Department decided to continue to enforce Higgs’ judgment, it asked a federal judge to modify Higgs’ sentencing sentence and designated Indiana State law as the governing law. The Federal Executive House is located in Terre Haute, Indiana. Higgs has been in jail for nearly 20 years.

On December 29th, US District Judge Peter Messitte Ruled that he lacked authority The request to allow the government to modify the judgment.When the government appealed, the Fourth Circuit Arranged an oral debate on the issue January 27-Nearly two weeks after the implementation date of the government plan.Then, on Wednesday, the Fourth Tournament was released Reprieve, Formally suspended the execution when reviewing the case.

The government came to the Supreme Court and asked it to cancel the suspension procedure and designate the law of Indiana as the relevant state law under the FDPA. In the four-sentence order, the court did not explain its reasons, and the court approved the government’s request.

In terms of procedure, the court’s ruling is very unusual. This is a quick decision on the merits of the case. It was submitted to the court as a petition for a “pre-judgment certificate”. This is a legal term for judicial proceedings to intervene and resolve the case before the appellate court decides.This intervention is rare, And in rare cases, the court does consider cases in this manner, usually only after oral arguments and further deliberation, the court will resolve these cases, but this has not happened.

Breyer and Sotomayor stated in their objections that the court is taking extraordinary “unusual” measures to avoid adequately facing serious legal issues. Breyer accused most people of adopting an “expedited, expedited” approach in this situation and other recent death penalty appeals.

“How fair is the enforcement of a personal legal system without considering the novel or major legal issues he raised?” Breyer wrote. He went on to say that the issues surrounding the death penalty have raised questions about the constitutionality of the death penalty. He has raised before.

Sotomayor’s dissent began in July last year, when the Trump administration ended the 17-year unofficial ban on federal executions, and the names of 13 people executed by the federal government since then. She accused the court of substantive imprinting of these executions.

Speaking of the decision to allow Higgs to be executed, she wrote: “Sadly, the court granted this special request.” “In the past six months, the court has often evaded its usual requirements at the request of the government. This has allowed it to move forward with an unprecedentedly difficult timetable for execution of the death penalty. Under proper judicial consideration, some of the government’s arguments may prevail, and some or even many of these executions may even end up Allowed to proceed. Others may not. Either way, the court should not approve these executions without resolving these critical issues. The stakes are too high.”

Published on United States v. Higgs, Featured, Capital case

Recommended citation:
James Romoser (James Romoser),
In response to sharp objections, the court intervened to allow the federal government to execute the thirteenth person within six months,
SCOTUS blog (January 16, 2021, 2:44 AM), 13th six month old/

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