Waiting to die: Dustin Higgs

News 10's Sarah Lehman served as a media witness for Dustin Higgs' execution at the federal prison in Terre Haute.

Posted: Jan 16, 2021 4:51 AM

VIGO COUNTY, Ind. (WTHI) -- Dustin Higgs is the 13th federal death row inmate to be executed in Terre Haute since July. He is also the last death row inmate to executed under the Trump Administration.

I was a media witness for this execution.

Higgs was set to be executed at 6 on Friday. After much back and forth with court litigation, it was delayed for about 7 hours.

As with the other executions, many people opposed and fought to put a stop to it. At around 11:54 we were loaded up in the white vans that transport us to the security screening and then ultimately to the death chambers. However, right before we left we heard there were some protestors blocking the street near the entrance of the prison. 

The driver of the first van walked back and said to the driver of my van "just follow me". We took a back way into the prison to avoid the protestors. 

When the blinds first lifted in the death chamber, Higgs' was frantically looking around. Making eye contact with media witnesses and scanning the room around him.

In his final moments, Higgs claimed his innocence. Saying "I would like to say I'm an innocent man. I didn't kill Tanji Jackson, Tamika Black, and Mishann Chinn. I am not responsible, and I did not order the murders. To my family, be strong, I love you."  

Lethal injection started at 1 in the morning. At this point, media witnesses cannot hear what is being said inside the execution chambers. However, after 2 minutes of the poison entering his bloodstream, Higgs looked at the room where his family was and said "I love you".

Then, his eyes rolled back in his head and never opened again, but they never fully shut. 

Then the other media witnesses and I heard uncontrollable sobbing and screaming echoing from his family's room. The crying lasted for about 5 minutes but felt much longer.

Higgs was pronounced dead at 1:23 in the morning.

Media witnesses got a written statement from Tanji Jackson's sister. Jackson was one of three of the victims.

It read in part, "My sisters' life was cut short before she ever got the chance to live life. When we received the news that you were given a date it brought up mixed feelings. I felt we were finally going to get justice, but I felt sad for your family. They were going to go through the same pain we experienced. When the day is over, your death will not bring my sister and the other victims back. This is not closure this is the consequence of your actions."

We heard from another family member of Higgs' victims. He would not tell us his name because he said it was not important. But, he said life is full of decisions good and bad. He said Higgs made a bad decision 24 years ago. One that took away 3 beautiful lives. But he said he hopes Higgs' has made some good ones and hopes that he had brought Jesus Christ into his life and repented.

There are no more federal executions scheduled.
President-elect Joe Biden will be inaugurated Wednesday. His press secretary says he opposes the death penalty now and in the future. 

Again, Higgs' was the 13th and final execution under the Trump Administration.

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