Outgoing President Donald Trump has permitted the execution of four Black men and one woman before he leaves the White House.
Trump, who tried to appeal to Black men and women before the election with his Platinum Plan, is the first president in 17 years to reinstate federal executions. Anti-death penalty activist Sister Helen Prejean said on Monday’s episode of Democracy Now! that the executions are the result of giving absolute power to people not fit to use it correctly.
“It just shows when you give absolute power over life and death to government officials, they can really do what they want,” Prejean said. “And then for this to happen, it’s just—see, I’ve accompanied six people to execution. It’s this absolute power to take a human being who is alive and make these inscrutable decisions all along the way.”
The first execution is lined up for the same day as International Human Rights Day, Dec. 10. Brandon Bernard, was convicted of kidnapping and murder when he killed a young married couple in 1999. However, since he was sentenced to death Bernard has been a model prisoner, using his time to mentor at-risk youth.
Additionally, five of the nine surviving jurors who sentenced Bernard to death now believe Bernard’s execution is inappropriate. Angela Moore, the special prosecutor who was assigned to Bernard’s case, wrote an Op-Ed explaining why Bernard should live.
The day after Bernard is slated to be executed, Alfred Bourgeois, a truck driver who was convicted of abusing and killing his two year-old daughter, is scheduled to be executed. Bourgeois’s execution was originally scheduled for January 2020, but a federal judge blocked it.
The other two Black men aren’t scheduled to be executed until 2021. Cory Johnson, who was convicted of murdering seven people in Virginia, is scheduled to be executed January 14. Like Bourgeois, Johnson’s lawyers argued he is dealing with intellectual disabilities.
Dustin Higgs will be the last man Trump will execute as he’s scheduled to be killed a day after Johnson for a 1996 crime in which multiple people were shot and killed. However, the Daily Beast reported multiple witnesses in the case testified that Higgs didn’t kill anyone, including his co-defendant Willie Haynes, who pleaded guilty to killing the men in the case and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
The Justice Department argued that Higgs coerced Haynes into killing the people, but Haynes signed an affidavit saying he was acting under his own actions.
“The prosecution’s theory of our case was bullshit. Dustin didn’t threaten me. I was not scared of him. Dustin didn’t make me do anything that night or ever.” Haynes said in a clemency video for Higgs.
The one woman scheduled to be executed is Lisa Montgomery, the first woman set to be executed in 70 years. For perspective, the women who killed actress Sharon Tate and others for Charles Manson in the 60s are still sitting in jail.
Montgomery, who suffers from mental illness and who her lawyers say was a victim of gang rape, incest and child sex trafficking, killed a pregnant woman in 2004, cut the baby out of the woman and attempted to pas it off as her own.
Montgomery was scheduled to be executed Dec. 8, but her execution was delayed after her lawyers contracted coronavirus.
PBS reported last year that 21 states and Washington D.C. have abolished the death penalty and the nation’s approval of federal executions has fallen with it. According to the Pew Research Center, 54% of Americans favored the death penalty in 2018, which is five percent uptick from 2016.