• Niyat Theodores

The Story of Dustin Higgs: Black People and the Death Penalty

Updated: Jun 27, 2021

On January 16, 48 year old Dustin Higgs was executed, being the 13th and final person to die by execution under President Trump. Like many other black men in the criminal justice system, the verdict for his trial seemed unjust and wrong.


25 years prior, on January 26, 1996, Higgs, two other men, and three women partied in Dustin’s apartment. Early the next morning, Higgs and one of the women, Ms. Jackson, started arguing. Angered, she threatened him, and the three women left. Dustin grabbed a firearm, and the men met up with them outside.


They all got into Higgs’s vehicle, and he drove them to a secluded area, onto federal property. Though this next part is not confirmed to be true, Dustin allegedly forced the women out of the vehicle, and ordered one of the men, Mr. Hayes, to kill them, which he did.


Dustin’s case angered many, as he personally did not shoot or kill any of the women, but was sentenced to death while Mr. Hayes was sentenced to life imprisonment. All the witnesses, and even Mr. Hayes himself, have confirmed his innocence.


This is not the first time that the death penalty has targeted people of color. Just a few months before Dustin's execution, Brandon Bernard, a black man from Texas, was also executed for crimes that he did not commit.


According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the odds of receiving a death sentence are almost 4 times higher if the person is black. Dustin Higgs did not deserve to die. Brandon Bernard did not deserve to die. May all the black men who have been unjustly executed rest in power.