Death row executions: From sick 'womb-raider'' Lisa Montgomery to Dustin Higgs who didn't pull trigger in triple murder

THE American justice system is pressing ahead with its historic execution spree of death row inmates – with more lethal injections slated in the coming days.

Donald Trump's administration became one of the deadliest US governments in modern history having executed 17 death row inmates in 2020 – with female murderers and child killers set to be put to death in the coming days.

President-elect Joe Biden, who takes power on January 20, has pledged to end death penalty proceedings.

But the executions are set to continue in the coming days after Trump's administration ended a 17-year break in executions in July 2020.

Here are some of the inmates facing execution in the coming weeks – including a man who beat a toddler to death in an "exorcism."

Unborn baby ripped from womb

The only woman on federal death row was scheduled to be executed today – 17 years after she cut a baby out of a pregnant woman's womb.

Lisa Montgomery, 52, faces lethal injection at the Terre Haute prison in Indiana as punishment for the horrific 2004 murder of Bobbie Jo Stinnett.

Montgomery traveled to the home of 23-year-old dog breeder Stinnett in Skidmore, Missouri, under the guise of buying a puppy.

There, Montgomery strangled Stinnett with a rope and cut her unborn foetus out of her womb.

Astonishingly, the baby girl survived – with Montgomery planning to pass her off as her own daughter.

She was caught the next day and sentenced to death at trial in 2007.

Lawyers argued that Montgomery was mentally ill and suffered horrendous abuse as a child, including being beaten and raped by her stepfather and his friends in a specially made room in his trailer.

Late on Monday, a judge granted a stay of execution for Montgomery while her mental competence is assessed, according to The Topeka Capital-Journal.

If her death sentence is carried out, she'll be the first federally executed woman since 1953.

Drug dealer facing 'drowning' execution

While Montgomery is safe for now, attention has turned to Corey Johnson, whose execution is still scheduled to take place on Thursday.

Johnson, 52, was sentenced to death for the 1992 murders of seven people for a drug gang in Richmond, Virginia.

The killings were in connection with Johnson's crack cocaine dealing operation – silencing informants or rivals in the trade.

In one of the killings, Johnson ordered the victim to place his head on a car steering wheel before shooting him dead.

And he shot and killed another victim at the victim’s home when they failed to pay for crack cocaine – also murdering the victim’s sister and a male acquaintance.

Two of his partners in crime are also on death row.

It's illegal in the US to execute anyone with an intellectual disability, which Johnson's lawyers argue he has.

Johnson has also been diagnosed with Covid-19, which his lawyers say has disrupted their ability to meet with him and provide legal counsel.

It's also been argued that Johnson's execution should be halted because giving someone with a Covid-damaged lungs could constitute a "cruel and unusual punishment" prohibited by the US Constitution.

The deadly dose of pentobarbital, a powerful barbiturate, could lead to him experiencing several minutes of drowning in which his lungs fill with a bloody fluid before the drug kills him, which lawyers called a form of torture.

Sentenced to die without pulling a trigger

Dustin Higgs' execution is set to take place on January 15 in what will be one of the most controversial death sentences in American history.

In 1996, 19-year-old Tamika Black, 21-year-old Tanji Jackson, and 23-year-old Mishann Chinn, were all shot and killed on federal land in Maryland.

Higgs was tried and sentenced to death for the slayings in 2000 – even though he wasn't the man who actually pulled the trigger.

The gunman was Willis Haynes, who was sentenced to life without parole plus 45 years for the murders.

At trial, it was argued that while Higgs hadn't personally shot anyone, he forced Haynes to do it.

The lethal injection protocol is essentially going to waterboard them to death

But in 2012, Haynes signed an affidavit saying Higgs hadn't forced or bullied him to do anything.

Higgs' execution is further complicated by the fact that, had the shootings taken place further down the road away from the federal land, he wouldn't have been eligible for the death penalty.

And, like Corey Johnson, Higgs has contracted coronavirus from the outbreak that swept through Terre Haute, where Higgs is also scheduled to be executed.

“Because of Mr. Johnson’s and Mr. Higgs’ Covid diagnosis, the lethal injection protocol is essentially going to waterboard them to death,” Alex Kursman, a lawyer representing Higgs, previously said in an appeal to delay their executions, Reuters reports.

“Being waterboarded to death violates the Eighth Amendment.”

At present, Higgs' execution is still set for Friday – just five days before Biden takes office.

Horrific 'exorcism' baby killing

While Higgs could well be the last criminal to be put to death by the federal government, state executions are still planned to go ahead – including Blaine Milam's.

In 2010, Milam was sentenced to death for the 2008 murder of his girlfriend's 13-month-old daughter, Amora Carson.

Milam beat little Amora to death with a hammer as part of a demonic "exorcism" carried out along with the toddler's mother, Jesseca Carson, who was given life without parole.

Amora's body was also found covered in bite marks when police arrived at the crime scene, which they described as the worst they'd ever seen, KLTV reports.

The medical examiner also found evidence of sexual assault.

Milam and Carson were both just 18 when they carried out the stomach-turning crime.

Previous efforts to halt Milam's execution have rested on disputes about bite mark science used in his trial, and arguments about his intellectual ability to face execution.

But the 31-year-old is nevertheless currently facing death in the Walls Unit of the Huntsville State Penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas, on January 21.

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