TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) – A federal judge on Tuesday halted this week’s executions of two inmates who were diagnosed with COVID-19, the last two federal executions scheduled under President Donald Trump.
The ruling applies to Corey Johnson, who was set for execution on Thursday, and Dustin Higgs, who was scheduled to die on Friday. If the delay isn’t overturned by a higher court, it would push back the executions to at least March, and perhaps permanently because President-elect Joe Biden, an opponent of the federal death penalty, will be sworn-in next week.
The ruling doesn’t apply to U.S. government’s planned execution Tuesday of Lisa Montgomery, who would be the first female federal inmate executed in nearly seven decades. However, Montgomery’s execution also was delayed – at least temporarily – with a federal judge’s ruling that she should receive a competency examination before being put to death.
If a higher court puts the execution back on, Montgomery, the only female on federal death row, would receive a lethal injection at a federal prison complex in Terre Haute, Ind. By Tuesday night, the Supreme Court lifted a separate injunction that was put in place by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
Delays of any of this week’s scheduled executions beyond Biden’s inauguration next Tuesday would likely mean they will not happen any time soon, or ever, since a Biden administration is expected to oppose carrying out federal death sentences.