Don’t Murder Murderers


Julie Smith / Fulton Sun.

People gathered on Tuesday Jan. 12, 2021 protesting the death penalty and the impending executions of federal inmates; Lisa Montgomery, Corey Johnson and Dustin Higgs.

Nancy Young, Collaborator

Picture this, you have been waiting 16 years for your execution. The past few days, you have been on a 24 hour watch just feet away from the execution chamber. On the day of your death, you have been waiting hours in handcuffs and are finally taken to the chamber. People are all around you checking the needles, ready to not only witness but bring forth your federally sanctioned murder. They strap you to the table then when the “all clear” is given you are injected with three needles; you ultimately slip away from this life. You are dead. This was the fate of Lisa Montgomery, the first woman to be executed on federal death row in nearly 70 years.

The U.S. Government hacommitted 10 federal executions this year, the most murders since 1988. Three executions happening the week of the presidential inauguration. The first being Lisa Montgomery, who in 2004 strangled a pregnant mother and carved out her baby with a kitchen knife. Second being Corey Johnson, a man responsible for the deaths of seven people in 1992. Finally, Dustin Higgs, he was accused of kidnapping and killing three women in 1996. Nothing can excuse the cruel and heinous crimes they committed, but there are explanations for why they should not have been executed. Montgomery was a mentally ill woman who suffered from extreme post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, disassociation, and hallucinations. She was abused and raped as a child, endured human trafficking, was involved in incest and had serious brain damage. Johnson was intellectually disabled and was infected with COVID-19 at the time of his death. Higgs did not actually murder the women; it later came out that Willis Haynes confessed to the murders, also saying that Higgs did not threaten him to kill the three. While Higgs was killed, Haynes got sentenced for life in prison. Higgs had also, just like Johnson, contracted COVID-19 before his murder. These people, along with all the others executed on death row had one thing in common. They did not deserve to die. 

The history of executions and capital punishment is complicated. Early types of capital punishment were extremely painful. These forms included stoning, crucifixion and burning at the stake. Overtime the death penalty grew less painful later consisting of hanging and beheading and finally coming to the most recent form, lethal injection. The main rationale for the death penalty is deterrence. According to the DPIC, Death Penalty Information CenterThe essence of the theory is that the threat of being executed in the future will be sufficient to cause a significant number of people to refrain from committing a heinous crime they had otherwise planned.” But as stated by the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU, “There is no credible evidence that the death penalty deters crime more effectively than long terms of imprisonment. States that have death penalty laws do not have lower crime rates or murder rates than states without such laws. The ACLU also explains that the death penalty has no real effect because most murders are committed in a heat of passion, under the influence or both.  

 You do not rape rapists, you do not burn down the houses of arsonists, so why should you murder the murderers. Many people believe that by murdering these criminals you are doing justice for the families and victim, when you are not. This sense of justice is not justice at all, it is an overall horrible chance at cruel revenge. According to the DPIC, “Science suggests that achieving closure through execution may be a myth and growing numbers of family members of homicide victims oppose capital punishment or do not want it pursued in the deaths of their loved ones. A study released in 2014 by the National Academy of Sciences also states that 4.1 percent of people on death row are innocent. Finally, by killing these people, you are completely and utterly disregarding what should be the focus of all prisons, rehabilitation and change for the better.  

There are different alternatives for execution with the main one being life without parole. Most states have life sentences that tremendously limit or eliminate the chance of parole. Also, “The death penalty is far more expensive than a system utilizing life-without-parole sentences as an alternative punishment,” explained the DCIP. Another alternative is rehabilitation. Prison administrator Thomas Mott Osborne met with a condemned prisoner who explained that he was sad he did not get to right the wrongs he committed. Osbourne moved by this man would later say,

He had the right idea. The only way to balance a debit is by a credit. Resist not evil but overcome evil with good. Balance wrong by right. Give the man a chance to redeem himself after his sin by doing good to make things balance. That can be done, even in prison.”

— Thomas Mott Osborne


President Joe Biden is planning on abolishing the death penalty during his presidencywith a memo coming out on Jan. 19 by the White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain saying that by Feb. 1 the president will sign many executive orders including ones that “begin fulfilling campaign promises related to reforming our criminal justice system.” It is not certain whether the orders will include the death penalty, but we will soon find out what all this will entail for the soon to be murders of the 49 remaining inmates on death row.