Federal Judge Halts Executions For 2 Men Recently Diagnosed With COVID-19

A federal judge on Tuesday halted executions for two men scheduled to be killed later this week, both of whom are recovering from the coronavirus

The two men, Corey Johnson and Dustin Higgs, argued that lung damage from COVID-19 would make the government’s execution protocol — a lethal injection of pentobarbital ― a torturous process that would violate constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment. 

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan in Washington, D.C., granted their request for a preliminary injunction. 

“The court is deeply concerned that the government intends to execute two prisoners who are suffering from COVID-19 infection, particularly given that the disease impacts individuals in drastically different ways and can have particularly devastating long-term effects, even for those with mild symptoms,” Chutkan wrote in her memorandum opinion. 

Chutkan added that executing Johnson and Higgs, who are still recovering from COVID-19, in a facility with an active coronavirus outbreak, puts the individuals participating in and witnessing the executions at risk of infection.

“This is irresponsible at best, particularly when a temporary injunction will reduce these risks,” she said. “The public interest is not served by executing individuals in this manner.”

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