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Federal Death Penalty a First

For the first time since federal capital punishment was reinstated 12 years ago, a federal jury in Maryland yesterday returned a death sentence against a man convicted in the murders of three women at Patuxent National Wildlife Refuse in January 1996.Dustin John Higgs, on trial in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, showed no emotion as the sentence was rendered one day after it had gone to the jury.The jury’s decision requires the sentencing judge to impose the death penalty, said U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Stephen M. Schenning. The last federal execution in Maryland occurred in 1963.Higgs, 28, was convicted of first degree murder, kidnapping and use of a firearm in the commission of a crime of violence in the deaths of Tamika Black, 19; Tanji Jackson, 21; and Mishann Chinn, 23, all of the District of Columbia.The convicted triggerman, Willis M. Haynes, 23, was spared the death penalty when the jury returned a recommendation of life without the possibility of release for the same offenses, Schenning said.During Haynes’ trial, a witness testified that the women were at a party at Higgs’ apartment in Laurel. Jackson rebuffed an advance by Higgs, then walked out with the other two women, the witness said.Jackson wrote down Higgs’ license plate number, leading Higgs to grab a gun and follow the women with Haynes, according to prosecutors.. The men caught up with the victims on Maryland Route 197 and convinced them to enter their van on the pretext of driving them home, prosecutors said.Instead, the women were taken to a federally owned property near Route 197, where Haynes was given the gun and told by Higgs to kill them, according to prosecutors. “I feel that justice has been served,” said Krishana Chinn, Chinn’s mother.Higgs’ lawyer, Harry Trainor, called it “a very sad ending to a very sad case.”Sentencing is set for 9:30 a.m. Dec. 15 in Greenbelt.The Associated Press contributed to this article.