• Higgs has tested positive for the novel coronavirus
  • He ordered the 1996 murders of three women in Maryland
  • His life could be saved if Biden decides to abolish the death penalty

A death row inmate scheduled to be executed four days before Joe Biden's presidential inauguration has been diagnosed with coronavirus.

Dustin John Higgs, who was convicted for ordering the murders of three women in Maryland, is scheduled to be executed on Jan. 15 — the last in a series of federal executions ordered by the Trump administration.

In January 1996, Higgs and his two friends reportedly drove to Washington, D.C., where they picked up Tamika Black, 19, Tanji Jackson, 21, Mishann Chinn, 23, and brought the victims back to his apartment in Maryland.

Higgs made advances to Jackson but was later rejected. He offered the victims a ride back home, but he brought them to a secluded area in the Patuxent National Wildlife Refuge, where he ordered one of his friends to kill them.

Black and Jackson died after getting shot in the chest and back, while Chinn was shot in the back of the head. Higgs was found guilty of first-degree premeditated murder, felony murder, and kidnapping resulting in death.

Higgs would be the first known COVID-19 case involving a federal death row inmate. His diagnosis could reportedly delay his execution and save his life if his condition deteriorates.

The Bureau of Prisons conducted contact tracing investigations that found more inmates and an employee working in the Special Confinement Unit had also been infected with the coronavirus. But the agency declined to identify the number of inmates who tested positive.

“This is surely the result of the super spreader executions that the government has rushed to undertake in the heart of a global pandemic. Following the two executions that took place last week and one other two weeks prior, the COVID numbers at the federal prison in Terre Haute spiked enormously,” Shawn Nolan, Higgs’ lawyer, said.

“Now our client is sick. We have asked the government to withdraw the execution date and we will ask the courts to intervene if they do not,” the attorney added.

The Biden administration could potentially suspend Higgs’ execution should there be delays. President-elect Biden has previously signaled that he wants to abolish the death penalty once he takes over the Oval Office.

The US Justice Department is seeking to carry out federal executions of five men on death row at a prison in Terre Haute, Indiana
The US Justice Department is seeking to carry out federal executions of five men on death row at a prison in Terre Haute, Indiana GETTY IMAGES / SCOTT OLSON