The execution of 34-year-old Dustin Ford Briggs, which was scheduled for
Thursday, was postponed by the Federal Court.
The Gillett resident was convicted in Bradford County in 2004 for murdering
county sheriff’s deputies Michael VanKuren and Christopher Burgert, and was
sentenced to death by legal injection.
The postponement was submitted in the U.S. District Court for the Middle
District of Pennsylvania on Jan. 26 pending appeal, just after the execution
warrant was signed by the governor on Jan. 9, according Janet Kelley, deputy
director of communications for the Pennsylvania Governor’s Office.
The district court “issued an order staying the execution pending ‘disposition
of the anticipated petition for writ of habeas corpus, or until further order
of the court,’” said Kelley.
While VanKuren and Burgert were attempting to serve Briggs with a bench warrant
at his father’s residence on Congdon Road in Wells Township, Briggs shot the
The warrant for Briggs, who is currently incarcerated in the Greene County
State Correctional Facility in Waynesburg, Pa., was the 11th execution warrant
Gov. Corbett has singed since taking office in 2011.
Briggs is the 3rd felon in Bradford County in the past 19 yearsto be sentenced
to death. The other 2 are Terry Chamberlain, who has been on death row since
1994, and John Kohler, who was sentenced to death row in 1996.
Chamberlain was convicted for the 1991 murders of his wife and her boyfriend.
Kohler was convicted for the “hit man killings,” where he trained county
resident William Curley to be a hitman, which led to the murders of a woman and
Chamberlain’s and Kohler’s death warrants have been signed by previous
The last execution in the state was when Gary M. Heidnik was executed by lethal
injection on July 6, 1999 for the murders of Sandra Lindsay and Deborah Dudley.
“After the Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirms a death sentence and the U.S.
Supreme Court denies the defendant’s petition for appeal, the trial record is
sent to the governor’s office of general counsel for review,” explained Kelley
of the process. “The governor must issue an execution warrant within 90 days of
receiving that record. The warrant specifies a day for the execution.”
She explained that the execution is stayed after the first warrant to give the
defendant time to file a challenge to the sentence with the state. If the
petition is denied by the lower court, the state Supreme Court reviews the case
and if they keep the lower court’s decision, the execution process moves
“The governor is then required by law to reissue the warrant within 30 days,”
said Kelley. “When the next warrant is issued, the execution is stayed usually
by a federal court, to allow the defendant to challenge the death sentence in
federal court and the process repeats itself.”
Briggs is currently considered in a “stay,” meaning his execution is put on
(source: Morning Times)