Several Catholic bishops have signed a letter urging President Donald Trump to not execute Dustin Higgs, who is on death row in Indiana for ordering the murder of three women, Catholic News Service reported.
Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington, Baltimore Archbishop William Lori and Bishop Francis Malooly of Wilmington, Delaware all co-wrote the letter released by the Maryland Conference of Catholic Bishops.
They also wrote to Maryland Governor Larry Hogan with a similar message. The letter was signed by two Washington auxiliary bishops, Bishops Roy Campbell and Mario Dorsonville, and auxiliary bishops of Baltimore, Bishops Adam Parker, Bruce Lewandowski and retired Bishop Denis Madden.
“Alternative sentences, such as life without parole, are punishments through which society can be kept safe. The death penalty does not create a path to justice. Rather, it contributes to the growing disrespect for human life and perpetuates a cycle of violence in our society,” the bishops wrote in their letter to President Trump.
“Human justice is imperfect, and the failure to recognise its fallibility can transform it into a source of injustice,” they wrote, quoting Pope Francis.
The 48-year-old Higgs has been convicted of ordering the murder of three women in 1996 on land owned by the federal Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland. He is scheduled to be executed January 15. Higgs’ attorney, Shawn Nolan, said Higgs has tested positive for Covid-19.
Nolan has argued that Higgs has already served 20 years on death row. His co-defendant, who pulled the trigger in the murders, has been sentenced to life in prison without parole.
President Trump resumed federal executions this year after a 17-year hiatus. Since July, there have been ten federal executions, including two in December during an executive branch lame-duck session. Earlier this month, Alfred Bourgeois and Brandon Bernard were publicly executed.
The bishops who wrote the letter are urging the president not to end his term with federal executions. In addition to Higgs, two other federal death row inmates are scheduled to be executed before January 20: Lisa Montgomery on January 12 and Corey Johnson on January 14.
In 2018, Pope Francis changed the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s paragraph 2267 on the death penalty from saying it’s very rarely needed to saying capital punishment is “inadmissible”.
The Catholic Mobilizing Network, which sets out to end the death penalty and promote restorative justice, is holding prayer vigils for each of the inmates on federal death row. Sign up to join the virtual vigils here.
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