HIGH EARTH, Ind. – Lisa Montgomery, the first woman to receive the federal death penalty in nearly seven decades, was executed Tuesday for strangling a pregnant woman in Missouri and cutting the baby off her womb.
Montgomery, 52, was pronounced dead at 1:31 a.m. Wednesday after receiving a lethal injection at the federal prison complex in Terre Haute, Indiana. She was the 11th prisoner to receive a lethal injection since July when President Donald Trump, a strong supporter of the death penalty, resumed federal executions after 17 years without one.
It came after hours of legal wrangling before the Supreme Court cleared the way for execution to move forward. Montgomery was the first of the last three federal inmates to die before next week’s inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, who is expected to halt federal executions.
Kelley Henry, Montgomery’s federal public defender, expressed disappointment at the events of the day, saying the federal government violated the Constitution, federal law and its own regulations to put its client to death.
“The cowardly bloodlust of a failed administration was on full display tonight. Shame on anyone who was involved in Lisa Montgomery’s execution, ”she said in a statement given to USA TODAY Network’s IndyStar after midnight.
Montgomery’s attorneys said she suffered severe physical and sexual abuse from childhood and suffered from severe mental illness. Late Monday night, U.S. District Court Judge Patrick Hanlon granted a stay to stop the execution, citing the need to determine Montgomery’s mental competence, lawyers said.
Tuesday afternoon, this trip had been canceled. Three Superior Court of Appeal justices overturned Justice Hanlon’s order, saying Montgomery’s lawyers waited too long to bring their stay of execution request to Federal Court. They also said the attorneys’ statements used by three experts on Montgomery’s state of mental health were based on outdated information. Two of the experts last saw Montgomery in 2016 and the other last saw in 2010, according to the judges.
In 2004, Montgomery drove from his farm in Melvern, Kansas to the town of Skidmore, northwest Missouri, under the pretext of adopting a rat terrier puppy from 23-year-old dog breeder Bobbie Jo Stinnett. . She strangled Stinnett with a rope before performing a rude Caesarean section and running away with the baby.
There are two more pending petitions in Montgomery’s case that could yet change his fate.
On December 24, Montgomery’s attorneys called on Trump to commute his death sentence to life in prison without parole. In their petition for clemency, they describe the severe trauma that followed Montgomery’s childhood and allege that she was not effectively represented by lawyers who first took up her case after the crime was committed.
On January 9, Montgomery’s attorneys submitted a petition to the United States Supreme Court asking that judges stay his death sentence. The petition is an appeal from an earlier case in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, where the court ruled that the federal government acted against the regulations when it scheduled Montgomery’s execution on January 12 despite a pending court decision suspending its execution.
That decision collapsed after the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals for the United States overturned it, prompting Montgomery’s lawyers to now go to the Supreme Court.
Two more executions scheduled for later this week have also been halted as detainees tested positive for COVID-19. The executions were to be the last before President-elect Joe Biden, an opponent of the federal death penalty, was sworn in next week.
A federal judge in the U.S. District of Columbia ended scheduled executions later this week of Corey Johnson and Dustin Higgs in a ruling on Tuesday. Johnson, convicted of killing seven people linked to his drug trafficking in Virginia, and Higgs, convicted of ordering the murder of three women in Maryland, both tested positive for COVID-19 last month .
Contributing: Rafael Garcia, Topeka Capital-Journal; The Associated Press.
Contact IndyStar reporter Elizabeth DePompei at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @edepompei.