Death by Needle: The Death Penalty in The United States

Who is Dustin Higgs? The life so many teens and other young adults fought for at the start of this year.

Brynne Liedtke, Reporter

In society, it is assumed that the death penalty is reserved for only the most heinous criminals. Crimes in which the convicted person’s guilt is beyond question and they deserve the punishment of death in which they have been served. However, this is far from the truth.

The latest execution happened this year on January 16th, 2021. Dustin John Higgs was an American man who was sentenced to be executed by lethal injection by the United States federal government. Higgs was convicted and sentenced to death in 2000 for his role in the January 1996 murders of three women in Maryland (Carrega, CNN Reporter).

As News of Higgs’ execution quickly spread across the nation, his conviction picked up a lot of attention from many teenagers. These same teenagers took to tik-tok to try and tell the story of Higgs that seemed to be hidden by many news outlets.

In 2001 he was put on death row for a crime that many believe that he did not commit. Higgs was sentenced to death row for his involvement in the murders of three women in Maryland in 1996. Tamika Black, Tanji Jackson, and Mishann Chinn were all shot and killed near the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, on the Patuxent Research Refuge in Prince George’s County, Maryland. (Supreme The man people believe to have actually committed the crime, Willis Hayes, was given a life sentence. 

Though never being proven, the court ruled to put Higgs on death row because they assumed that Higgs pressured Hayes into killing the three women. Teens and many young adults used their voices to try and push what they believed to be the truth of this story out and stop the execution of Higgs. However, on January 15th, 2021, after a five hour long delay, the Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration could move forward with his execution (Josh Helfgott, influencer). Higgs was executed the next day.

As of May 16th, 2021 it has not officially been proven that Higgs did not deserve the punishment he received. Many Americans have begun to see the flaws of the United States’ justice system.

Wrongful convictions happen in the United states more than people would care to admit. Some of the worst examples of miscarriages of justice in federal and state courts have been in cases in which defendants were represented by unqualified appointed lawyers.

After peaking in the 1990s, amid the war on drugs, the overall number of federal executions has been decreasing. States are also turning away from capital punishment, many have even begun to abolish the death pentaly. Virgina being the lastest to join the other 22 states that no longer allow the death penalty to be an option for punishment. Only 17 people nationwide were sentenced to death last year, the fewest since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty for states in 1976. The federal government reinstated its death penalty in 1988 (Death penalty Information Center ).

The death penalty can lead not only to the execution of the innocent. More often than not poor people who have no resources to defend themselves, have an increased chance of being wrongfully convicted if they are innocent.People opposing the death penalty are excluded from juries, which weeds out potential jurors more apt to acquit.

President Joe Biden opposes the federal death penalty. He and Congress are looking into abolishing it.