The remaining federal inmates scheduled to die include Lisa Montgomery, the only woman on federal death row and the first to be executed by the United States in nearly 70 years; Brandon Bernard, who will be the youngest person in nearly 70 years to get executed by the United States for a crime committed when he was a teenager; and Dustin Higgs, who was convicted of ordering a triple homicide when the gunman received life in prison.
The Justice Department and White House declined to comment on the urgency to schedule this number of federal executions.
The Biden campaign has spoken out against the federal death penalty, due in part to the amount of wrongfully convicted inmates who have been given these sentences.
Since 1973, 172 people who had been sentenced to death in state court were found to have been wrongfully convicted, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, a national nonprofit that has tracked and studied death penalty cases across the country for 30 years. The demographics of the 172 exonerees were: 89 Black men, 63 White men, 15 Latino men, one Native American man, two other men of another race, as well as one Black woman and one White woman. No federal death row inmates have been found to have been wrongfully convicted, said Dunham.
There are currently 54 people on federal death row: 24 Black men, 21 White men, seven Latinos, one Asian and one White woman, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Of the eight who have been executed so far this year, six were White men and two were Black men.
Legal advocates from Fair and Just Prosecution included ending the federal death penalty in their list of recommendations for the Biden-Harris administration to overhaul the criminal justice system.
“Without question this unprecedented execution spree makes clear that this system is in need of either abandonment of the death penalty or major overhaul. It also shows that a moratorium just kicks the can down the road,” Dunham said, adding, “Prior administrations including the Obama-Biden Administration failed to take action on these cases that created the circumstances in which you could have this thing of unparallel series of executions.”
“There’s no question that these crimes were horrific, but that’s not the issue,” Dunham said. “You can go down the list of these executions one at a time and illustrate the injustices.”
These are the remaining death row inmates who are scheduled for execution before Inauguration Day:
• Alfred Bourgeois, a Black man, was sentenced to death by a Texas jury for abusing, torturing and ultimately beating his daughter to death in 2002. Bourgeois’ attorney Victor Abreu said in a statement on Friday that his client is scheduled to be executed on December 11. After the Supreme Court ruled that another death row inmate cannot be executed because of his intellectual disability, Abreu is seeking to have Bourgeois’ case reheard to produce similar evidence.
• Corey Johnson, a Black man, is scheduled for execution on January 14 for killing seven people in 1992 as a part of a drug trade in Virginia. Johnson’s attorneys Ronald J. Tabak and Donald P. Salzman argue that no jury heard evidence to rule on his intellectual disability. According to Johnson’s attorneys, he has an IQ of 69, which would be lower than one standard offered by the Supreme Court as a guide for states weighing whether such an execution met the Constitution’s cruel and unusual punishment standards. Johnson’s co-defendant was spared a life sentence due to his own intellectual disability.
• On January 15, Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, the federal government is expected to execute Dustin Higgs, a Black man who was sentenced to death “despite not killing anyone,” his attorney Shawn Nolan said in a statement after the Justice Department’s announcement on Friday. Higgs’ co-defendant and the convicted triggerman received life without parole for the 1996 killings of three women in Maryland. Higgs was convicted under a theory that even though he hadn’t pulled the trigger he had ordered the killings, his attorney said. One of the co-defendants testified that Higgs did order the shootings.