Lisa Montgomery, the only woman who had been on federal death row in almost seven decades in the United States, was executed on Wednesday for murder. The 52-year-old was convicted for strangling a pregnant woman named Bobbie Jo Stinnett and cutting her foetus out before kidnapping it in 2004. She was sentenced to death in 2008. The sole woman on death row since 1953, Montgomery was executed by lethal injection at the Federal Correctional Complex, Terre Haute, Indiana. She was pronounced dead at 1:31 am, reports say.
Montgomery's execution came after a long drawn out back-and-forth between her lawyers and the US courts. BBC reports her defenders pleaded that Montgomery was "mentally ill" and had suffered "serious abuse" as a child. A last-minute push by her lawyers for a competency hearing that would prove her mental state thus disqualifying her from the death penalty was denied by the Supreme Court.
Kelley Henry, Montgomery's attorney, was quoted saying, "The government stopped at nothing in its zeal to kill this damaged and delusional woman. Lisa Montgomery's execution was far from justice." She added, "Our Constitution forbids the execution of a person who is unable to rationally understand her execution."
Top Court Denies Death Penalty Halt
Reports suggest District Court Judge Patrick Hanlon had stayed Montgomery's execution on Monday, upon the request of her lawyers for a competency hearing. "Ms. Montgomery's current mental state is so divorced from reality that she cannot rationally understand the government's rationale for her execution," he wrote in the order. This was the second time Montgomery's execution was set to be postponed.
On Tuesday, a US Appeals Court first stayed then reversed Judge Hanlon's ruling, with the Supreme Court later allowing the system to proceed with Montgomery's injection. While her own family claimed she was sexually tortured by her father and allegedly trafficked by her mother, Stinnett's family was of the opinion Montgomery's execution must be fulfilled regardless of her mental state.
Current US President Donald Trump had reportedly been pushing for Montgomery's death sentence to be fulfilled. Federal executions had been given a nod by him after a 17-year hiatus, as per The Guardian. Montgomery's execution made her the 11th federal death row inmate under the Trump administration.
Background To The Case
In 2004, Lisa Montgomery, then aged 36, had befriended 23-year-old dog breeder Bobbie Jo Stinnett. Stinnett at the time was pregnant with her first child. Montgomery, aware of Stinnett's pregnancy, visited her house in Skidmore, Missouri and strangled her. She proceeded to cut her foetus out and kidnap it before escaping. It is reported that the baby was recovered and returned to the father, but Stinnett bled to death.
Montgomery, convicted of murder, was given the death penalty in 2008. Several lawyers and human rights experts had sought for her impending execution to be stopped, arguing that Montgomery was mentally unstable and delusional. After several rounds of exchanges between the Supreme Court and lawyers, Montgomery was executed by lethal injection on January 13, 2021.
Image Credit: BBC