Wednesday, September 22

Second Federal Prisoner Scheduled to Die in Weeks Has Covid, Lawyers Say | Capital punishment


A second federal prisoner scheduled to be executed next month, as the Trump administration rushes to execute more people before Joe Biden takes power, tested positive for Covid-19, his lawyers said Friday.

Cory Johnson’s diagnosis came a day after attorneys for Dustin John Higgs confirmed that he had tested positive at an American prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, where both men are on death row.

Johnson, Higgs and a third inmate, Lisa Montgomery, are scheduled to be executed by lethal injection at the federal compound just days before Biden takes office.

The Trump administration resumed federal executions after a 17-year hiatus in July and has carried out 10 death sentences since then, including two last week. It has executed more people in a single year than any other administration in more than 130 years, and this year it has killed more prisoners than all states combined.

Johnson’s attorneys, Donald Salzman and Ronald Tabak, asked federal authorities to rescind their client’s current execution date of Jan. 14, six days before opening day. Higgs is scheduled to die a day later.

Montgomery’s execution date is January 12, but because she is the only woman on federal death row, she is being held in a separate prison in Texas and would have to be taken to Indiana to be executed. She would be the first woman to be assassinated by the United States government in 67 years.

Johnson’s attorneys said his infection would make it difficult to interact with him in the critical days leading up to his scheduled execution, adding: “The widespread outbreak on federal death row only confirms the reckless disregard for the lives and safety of personnel. , prisoners, and lawyers alike. “

“If the government does not withdraw the execution date, we will ask the courts to intervene,” they said.

The Department of Justice and the US Bureau of Prisons did not respond to requests for comment.

Prosecutors alleged that Johnson was a crack cocaine dealer who killed seven people in 1992 in an attempt to expand the territory of a Richmond, Virginia gang and silence informants. His legal team has argued that he has an intellectual disability, an IQ well below average, and is therefore ineligible for the death penalty.

Higgs was convicted of ordering the 1996 murders of three women in Maryland. Montgomery was convicted of using a rope to strangle a pregnant woman in 2004 and then using a kitchen knife to cut the girl from the uterus, authorities said.

The Bureau of Prisons confirmed in a statement Thursday that inmates on federal death row tested positive for Covid-19. As of Thursday, there were more than 300 inmates with confirmed cases at FCC Terre Haute. The Bureau of Prisons said that “many of these inmates are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms.”

Nationally, one in five state and federal prisoners has tested positive for the coronavirus, a rate more than four times that of the general population, according to data compiled by the Associated Press and the Marshall Project.


www.theguardian.com

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