Court OKs 1st federal execution of female inmate in 67 years


FILE – This undated file image provided by Attorneys for Lisa Montgomery shows Lisa Montgomery. Montgomery who In 2004, killed a pregnant woman, cut a baby from her womb and then passed off the newborn as her own is set to die for the crime. Lisa Montgomery would be the first woman executed by the federal government in some six decades if her execution happens as scheduled on Jan. 12, 2021, at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Ind. (Attorneys for Lisa Montgomery via AP)

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (NewsNation Now) — The U.S. Supreme Court has cleared the way for the Justice Department to carry out the first execution of a female death-row inmate in almost seven decades.

The rulings, handed down just after midnight on Wednesday, allow the federal Bureau of Prisons to proceed with the execution of Lisa Montgomery.

The court lifted an injunction that had been put in place by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that had temporarily halted Montgomery’s execution. It came hours after the Supreme Court also lifted a separate injunction by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Montgomery is scheduled to be put to death at the federal prison complex in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Her lawyers have argued she is not mentally competent and should not be executed. They say she suffered from years of physical and emotional abuse and is severely mentally ill.

Montgomery was convicted of killing 23-year-old Bobbie Jo Stinnett in the northwest Missouri town of Skidmore in December 2004. She used a rope to strangle Stinnett, who was eight months pregnant, and then cut the baby girl from the womb with a kitchen knife, authorities said.

Montgomery took the child with her and attempted to pass the girl off as her own, prosecutors said.

It is one of three executions the U.S. Department of Justice had scheduled for the final full week of President Donald Trump’s administration, and would mark the first time the U.S. government has executed a female prisoner since 1953.

Two other executions scheduled for Thursday and Friday have been delayed, for now at least, by a federal Judge in Washington to allow them to recover from COVID-19.

On Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit voted to stay the execution to hold hearings on whether the Justice Department gave insufficient notice of Montgomery’s execution date.

On Tuesday evening, more than two hours after the execution was scheduled to begin, the Supreme Court agreed to a Justice Department petition to overturn that stay.

Separately on Monday night, a federal judge in Indiana ordered the execution to be postponed to allow for a hearing on whether she was too mentally ill to be executed. But the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago overturned the stay on Tuesday afternoon, a ruling that Montgomery’s lawyers have since asked the Supreme Court to overturn.

Around the same time, the St. Louis-based 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued its own stay of the execution, siding with her lawyers that the government had scheduled her execution in violation of the original sentencing court’s judgment issued in 2007. That stay was still in place on Tuesday evening, though The Associated Press’ Mike Balsamo reports the Justice Department late Tuesday filed an application in the Supreme Court to try and lift the injunction put in place by the 8th Circuit, which is currently halting the execution of Montgomery.

Balsamo reports Montgomery’s lawyers filed opposition to the Justice Department’s request to vacate the 8th Circuit stay, arguing they are likely to succeed because the DOJ “designated her date of execution in violation of the express terms of the district court’s criminal judgment.”

Montgomery, 52, had been scheduled to be killed by lethal injections of pentobarbital, a powerful barbiturate, at 6 p.m. EST on Tuesday in the Justice Department’s execution chamber at its prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Rueters’ reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York and Bhargav Acharya in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Kanishka Singh and Lawrence Hurley; editing by Robert Birsel, Jonathan Oatis and Grant McCool

Reuters and The Associated Press’ Mike Balsamo contributed to this report

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