A federal prisoner scheduled to be executed just days before President-elect Joe Biden takes office has tested positive for coronavirus, his lawyer said Thursday.
The Bureau of Prisons notified attorneys for Dustin John Higgs on Thursday that their client had tested positive for the virus, his attorney Devon Porter said during a court hearing Thursday afternoon.
The revelation comes amid concern about an exploding number of coronavirus cases in the federal prison system and specifically at the complex in Terre Haute, Indiana, where the executions are carried out. It is the only federal death row.
Higgs is scheduled to be executed Jan. 15, just five days before death-penalty opponent Joe Biden’s inauguration. Higgs is the last of those currently scheduled to be executed in a series of federal executions that began in July. The Trump administration will have executed more people in a single year than any other administration in more than 130 years.
Higgs’ lawyers have previously raised concerns about the possibility their client would contract the virus and could present complex health issues ahead of the execution.
As of Thursday, there were more than 300 inmates with confirmed cases of COVID-19 among inmates at FCC Terre Haute.
Higgs was convicted of ordering the 1996 murders of three women, Tamika Black, Mishann Chinn and Tanji Jackson, at a federal wildlife center near Beltsville, Maryland. Prosecutors say Higgs and two others abducted the women after Higgs became enraged because one of the women rebuffed his advances at party.
Another of Higgs’ attorneys, Sean Nolan, said his client didn’t kill anyone, had ineffective attorneys and didn’t deserve the death penalty. Higgs’ co-defendant, who prosecutors said carried out the killings, was not sentenced to death.