US federal authorities on Thursday executed a former drug trafficker sentenced to death for a series of murders and are planning a final execution, Friday, January 15, five days before Donald Trump’s departure from the White House. Corey Johnson, a 52-year-old African-American, received a lethal injection in the Federal Penitentiary in Terre-Haute, Indiana, and was pronounced dead at 5:34 a.m. PST.
In 1992, he was part of a gang that committed a dozen murders, including rivals, in the Richmond, Virginia area. He was sentenced by a federal court for his participation in seven of them. His last words were for the relatives of his victims. “I wanted to say before that I was sorry, but I didn’t know how. I hope you find peace ”, he said in particular.
Dustin Higgs, a 48-year-old black man convicted of ordering the kidnapping and murder of three young women on federal lands near Washington in 1996, is to suffer the same fate on Friday.
The two men had contracted Covid-19 in December, and a judge decided Tuesday to postpone their executions for several weeks. Their lungs are not fully recovered, the injection of pentobarbital may cause them suffering prohibited by the Constitution, which prohibits penalties “Cruel”, had estimated the court.
But an appeals court, seized by the justice ministry, overturned this decision on Wednesday, and the Supreme Court ruled in his favor Thursday evening. She also refused another appeal from Corey Johnson’s lawyers, which dealt with his intellectual disabilities.
“Corey did not have the faculties to be the “drug lord” that the government has wrongly portrayed for almost thirty years. He could hardly read and write ”, wrote Mes Donald Salzman and Ronald Tabak, deploring in a statement his execution, according to them “Contrary to the Constitution”.
The Supreme Court, profoundly overhauled by Donald Trump, now has six conservative judges out of nine who, for months, have systematically approved the Republican administration in capital punishment cases. The Republican President, a fervent supporter of the death penalty, like his more conservative voters, has, for his part, ignored all requests for clemency addressed to him by convicts.
Contrary to the states which have suspended executions since the start of the pandemic to minimize the risks of the virus spreading, his administration resumed in July, after a seventeen-year hiatus, with federal executions, and has been chaining them since at an unprecedented rate. Twelve Americans have received lethal injections in Terre Haute since the summer, including Mr Johnson and, for the first time in nearly seventy years, a woman, executed Tuesday despite doubts about her mental health.
Joe Biden, opposed to the death penalty
President-elect Joe Biden, who will be sworn in on Wednesday, who is opposed to the death penalty, has promised to work with Congress to try to abolish it at the federal level. Democratic parliamentarians on Monday introduced a bill to this effect. Their party having regained control of the Senate, it could be adopted.
The Republican administration’s efforts to carry out the executions as the transfer of power draws near have drawn sharp criticism among human rights defenders.
“Friday would have been the 92e my father’s birthday, and nothing would dishonor his heritage as much as these executions ”, thus wrote in the Washington post Martin Luther King III, the son of the leader of the civil rights movement, assassinated in 1968.
“Too many black lives have already been lost due to police violence and the pandemic”, he added, pointing to the sharp racial disparities on federal death row, where more than half of inmates are people of color.