TERRE HAUTE, Indiana (AP) – US government plans to carry out its first execution of a female prisoner in nearly seven decades were delayed on Tuesday amid numerous legal rulings, and two other executions scheduled for later this week have been halted. because the prisoners had tested positive for COVID-19.
The three executions were to be the last before President-elect Joe Biden, an opponent of the federal death penalty, was sworn in next week. It is unclear how many additional executions there will be under President Donald Trump, who resumed federal executions in July after a 1
Lisa Montgomery faces execution Tuesday for the murder of 23-year-old Bobby Joe Stinett in northwestern Missouri, Skidmore, in 2004. She used a rope to strangle Stinnett, who was eight months pregnant, and then cut her off. the girl from the womb with a kitchen knife. Montgomery took the child with him and tried to pass the girl on as his own.
But an appeals court allowed the suspension to be suspended Tuesday, shortly after another appeals court overturned an Indiana judge’s ruling that she was likely mentally ill and could not understand that she would be sentenced to death. If a higher court returns the execution, Montgomery, the only woman in the federal death sentence, will receive a lethal injection at a federal gated community in Terre Hout, Indiana.
A separate federal judge from the U.S. District of Columbia halted planned executions later this week of Corey Johnson and Dustin Higgs on Tuesday. Johnson, convicted of killing seven people linked to his drug trafficking in Virginia, and Higgs, convicted of ordering the murders of three women in Maryland, were both positive for COVID-19 last month.
Delays in any of the planned executions this week after Biden’s inauguration next Tuesday are likely to mean that they will not happen soon or ever, as the Biden administration is expected to oppose the execution of federal death sentences.
One of Montgomery’s lawyers, Kelly Henry, told the Associated Press on Tuesday morning that her client had arrived at the Terre Haute facility late Monday night from a Texas prison and that because there were no facilities for women prisoners, she was being held in a cell. in the building of the executive chamber itself.
“I don’t believe she understands what’s going on rationally at all,” Henry said.
Montgomery made a needle in prison by making gloves, hats and other knitwear as a gift for her lawyers and others, Henry said. She has not been able to pursue this hobby or read since her glasses were taken away for fear of suicide.
“All of her coping mechanisms were taken away from her when she was locked up” in October, when she was informed she had an execution date, Henry said.
Montgomery’s legal team says she suffered “sexual torture”, including gang rape, as a child, persistently emotionally affected her and exacerbated the mental health problems she experienced in her family.
During the trial, prosecutors accused Montgomery of falsifying a mental illness, noting that her murder of Stinet was deliberate and involved careful planning, including an online investigation into how to have a caesarean section.
Henry agreed with this idea, referring to extensive tests and brain scans that support the diagnosis of mental illness.
“You can’t fake a brain scan that shows brain damage,” she said.
Henry said the problem underlying the legal arguments was not whether she knew the murder was wrong in 2004, but whether she fully understood why she was scheduled to be executed now.
In his decision to stay, U.S. District Judge James Patrick Hanlan in Terre Hout quoted defense experts as saying that Montgomery suffered from depression, borderline personality disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Montgomery, the judge wrote, also suffered at the time of the murder from an extremely rare condition called pseudocyesis, in which a woman’s false belief that she is pregnant causes hormonal and physical changes as if she were actually pregnant.
Montgomery also experiences delusions and hallucinations, believing that God spoke to her through connection puzzles, the judge said, citing defense experts.
“The record before the Court contains sufficient evidence that Ms Montgomery’s current mental state is so detached from reality that she cannot rationally understand the government’s rationale for its implementation,” the judge said.
The government acknowledged Montgomery’s mental health problems, but disputed that she could not understand that she was scheduled to be executed for killing another person because of them.
Details of the crime sometimes left jurors in tears during the trial.
Prosecutors told jurors that Montgomery had traveled about 274 kilometers from his farm in Melvern, Kansas, to the northwestern town of Skidmore, Missouri, under the guise of adopting a Stinnett rat terrier puppy. She strangled Stinnett, performing a severe cesarean section and running away with the baby.
Prosecutors said Stinnett regained consciousness and tried to defend herself while Montgomery used a kitchen knife to cut the girl from her womb. Later that day, Montgomery called her husband to pick her up at Long John Silver’s parking lot in Topeka, Kansas, telling him that she had given birth earlier in the day at a nearby birth center.
Montgomery was arrested the next day after showing premature baby Victoria Joe, who is now 16 and has not spoken publicly about the tragedy.
Prosecutors said the motive was that Montgomery’s ex-husband knew she had undergone a tube ligature, which made her sterile, and planned to reveal that she was lying about pregnancy in an attempt to gain custody of two of their four children. In need of a baby before a fast-approaching court hearing, Montgomery turned her attention to Stinet, whom she had met at dog shows.
Anti-death penalty groups say Trump is pushing for executions ahead of the November election in a cynical attempt to undermine his reputation as a law and order leader.
The last woman executed by the federal government was Bonnie Brown Heidi on December 18, 1953 for the abduction and murder of a 6-year-old boy in Missouri.
The last woman executed by a state was Kelly Gisendaner, 47, on September 30, 2015 in Georgia. She was convicted of murder in the murder of her husband in 1997 after plotting with her lover, who stabbed Douglas Gisender to death.
Hollingsworth reports from Kansas.