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Supreme Court’s Sonia Sotomayor Condemns Trump’s Executions: “It’s Not Justice”

January 16th, 2021

Earlier this afternoon, we reported that the court had ruled 6 to 3 in favor of moving forward with the execution of Dustin Higgs. Higgs was accused of participating in the kidnapping and murder of three women in 1996 in the DMV area, and was convicted in 2000 despite maintaining his innocence up until the very last moment of his life. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who was apart of the dissenting Justices, harshly criticized the Trump administration for their recent increase in federal executions. 

Sotomayor wrote a dissent to the majority’s decision that was published on Friday, highlighting the ludicrous increase in executions since Trump ascended office, noting that more have taken place since July than the last 17 years. “They are Daniel Lee, Wesley Purkey, Dustin Honken, Lezmond Mitchell, Keith Nelson, William LeCroy Jr., Christopher Vialva, Orlando Hall, Brandon Bernard, Alfred Bourgeois, Lisa Montgomery, and, just last night, Corey Johnson,” she wrote, naming the executed individuals. 

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

“Today, Dustin Higgs will become the thirteenth,” she said, who was then executed shortly after the decision was made. Sotomayor added that the U.S. “will have executed more than three times as many people in the last six months than it had in the previous six decades.” The Trump administration had ended its pause on federal executions and pushed ahead with death sentences following the election results in November. 

She then went on to criticize her fellow justices, noting that, “Throughout this expedited spree of executions, this Court has consistently rejected inmates’ credible claims for relief.” Sotomayor continued, “The Court has even intervened to lift stays of execution that lower courts put in place, thereby ensuring those prisoners’ challenges would never receive a meaningful airing.”

“The Court made these weighty decisions in response to emergency applications, with little opportunity for proper briefing and consideration, often in just a few short days or even hours,” she said.

“This is not justice,” Sotomayor wrote, adding the flaw in, “waiting almost two decades to resume federal executions, the Government should have proceeded with some measure of restraint to ensure it did so lawfully. When it did not, this Court should have. It has not.” She concluded the inflammatory letter by saying, “Because the Court continues this pattern today, I dissent.”

Higgs was convicted in the deaths of the women, while the man who pulled the trigger did not receive the death penalty. His defense’s argument was this unfair, and executing him was, “arbitrary and inequitable.”


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