Poughkeepsie Man Put to Death By Trump Admin Claimed Innocence
A Poughkeepsie man was the 13th, and the last person to be executed by the Trump administration.
On Saturday morning, Dustin Higgs was given a lethal injection after the supreme court ruled he could be put to death. According to the Huffington Post, It was argued that Higgs, who was recovering from COVID-19, would suffer a cruel death that would be "extraordinarily painful" due to a combination of side effects from the disease and the lethal injection drug.
The stay of execution was lifted by the Supreme Court just after midnight on Saturday morning and Higgs was ultimately put to death. The manner of death, however, wasn't the only reason people believed he should have avoided execution.
Higgs grew up in a poor section of the City of Poughkeepsie where he was raised by his mother. His father, who was mostly absent, was abusive. When Higgs was ten his father was sent to prison and his mother suddenly died of cancer. Teachers from the City of Poughkeepsie school district described the boy as being "lost" as he dealt with tragedy at such an early age.
13 years later, Higgs' life would take another terrible turn, leading him to be sentenced to death.
At the age of 23, the Poughkeepsie native had moved to Maryland and was hanging out in his apartment with friends. He and two male friends were partying with three women when a fight broke out and the women left on foot. The friends jumped in Higg's van and followed the women, picking them up and driving to a wildlife refuge. That's where the women were shot and killed by one of Higg's friends, Willis Mark Haynes.
Even though Higgs did not pull the trigger, he was charged with first-degree premeditated murder, first-degree murder committed during a kidnapping, and kidnapping resulting in death, along with firearms charges. Prosecutors fought for Higgs to receive the death penalty. The third friend who was present that night, Victor Gloria, was let off the hook with a generous plea deal in exchange for testifying that Higgs was the one to tell Haynes to kill the women.
Higgs maintained his innocence and was backed up by Haynes who said Higgs had nothing to do with his decision to shoot the women. Haynes said he was intoxicated when he murdered the women and says Higgs didn't order him to do anything. In 2012 he wrote, "Dustin didn’t threaten me. I was not scared of him. Dustin didn’t make me do anything, that night or ever."
A change.org petition to grant Higgs a stay of execution was signed by over a million people, but despite the efforts of the public and his council, the Poughkeepsie man was put to death on Saturday. He is the 3rd person in a week to be executed in what some call a "killing spree" by the Trump administration during the president's final days in office. President-elect Joe Biden has campaigned on his desire to abolish the death penalty on a federal level and incentivize states to follow. Since 1973 there have been 160 people put to death who were later exonerated.