Beginning on December 24, 2020, the Department of Justice will allow the Bureau of Prisons to execute inmates on federal death row by means other than lethal injection.
The new protocol will permit officials to pursue executions through “any other manner prescribed by the law of the state in which the sentence was imposed,” in addition to lethal injection, the method used in recent cases, according to The Associated Press.
Some states allow for methods of execution other than lethal injection, such as lethal gas or electrocution. Utah allowed death row inmates to select execution by firing squad up until the 2000s, and still can legally use it if lethal injection drugs become unavailable.
The Trump administration has scheduled several federal inmates for execution in recent weeks, including three inmates — Cory Johnson, Dustin John Higgs, and Lisa Montgomery — whose execution dates are set for after the new rule change takes effect.
Johnson, 45, was convicted in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia for killing seven people in a 1992 drug trafficking-related killing spree. While Virginia allows death row inmates to choose between lethal injection or electrocution, the DOJ previously indicated that Johnson will be killed by lethal injection on January 14, 2021.
Higgs, 48, was convicted of kidnapping three women — Tamika Black, Tanji Jackson, and Mishann Chinn — under the pretense of offering them a ride home from a gathering he had hosted earlier in the evening, according to officials. He then drove the women to a secluded area, handed a gun to a friend, and ordered the friend to execute the women.
Higgs was convicted back in 2000 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland on nine counts, including three counts of first-degree premeditated murder, and sentenced to death. Maryland no longer has the death penalty as a state punishment, and officials have not specified how they plan to execute him.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons has slated Higgs’ execution for January 15, 2021.
According to USA Today, Montgomery, 52, the only woman on federal death row, has been scheduled for January 12, 2021, after her original date for December 8 was postponed on account that two of her attorneys contracted serious cases of COVID-19.
She was convicted in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri back in 2007 for the murder of Bobbie Jo Stinnett, a 23-year-old pregnant woman. Montgomery had traveled to Stinett’s home under the pretense of wanting to adopt a puppy, but after she arrived, she strangled Stinnett and butchered her abdomen with a knife in order to kidnap her unborn child and raise the baby as her own.
Missouri, which does have the death penalty, gives state death row inmates the option of choosing between lethal injection and lethal gas. However, when the Federal Bureau of Prisons scheduled Montgomery’s original December execution date — which has since been postponed by a month — it was revealed that Montgomery would be killed by lethal injection. It’s unclear whether the new federal rule change will result in any changes.
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