Lisa Montgomery: US executes first female inmate in seven decades
Early on Wednesday, the United States performed the first execution of a woman in nearly seven decades, as Lisa Montgomery was administered a lethal injection in Terre Haute, Indiana. She is the eleventh person to die after President Donald Trump restarted federal executions post a hiatus of 17 long years. Montgomery was found guilty of killing a pregnant woman. Here are more details.
Montgomery killed a pregnant woman, who was merely 23
In 2004, Montgomery killed Bobbie Jo Stinnett, who was 23 at the time and eight months pregnant with her first baby. The victim was a dog breeder whom Montgomery befriended online and expressed interest in buying one. To people known to her, Montgomery said she was pregnant, a false claim since she had sterilized after giving birth to her fourth child.
She tried passing the baby as hers, later confessed
Montgomery strangled Stinnett with a rope following which the latter bled to death. Later, she cut the baby girl from the womb with a kitchen knife and took her away. When questioned by cops, she told that the newborn was hers but later admitted to the heinous crime. Fortunately, the baby survived, turning 16 last month, on the same day her mother was killed.
In 2007, jury concluded she deserved capital punishment
In 2007, the jury that had already found Montgomery guilty of murder and kidnapping was asked to decide whether she deserved capital punishment. Her defense lawyer Fred Duchardt argued that she suffered from a mental condition — pseudocyesis — that made her believe Stinnett's baby was hers. This argument wasn't backed by facts and the jury opined on October 26 that she must be executed.
Stepfather raped her, mother trafficked her
Years later, a new team of defense lawyers appealed for Montgomery and unearthed the extent of sexual abuse she faced as a child. She was raped by her stepfather, gang-raped by his friends, trafficked by her mother, and forced to beat her younger sister till she bled. Janet Vogelsang, a clinical social worker, likened her trauma to those faced by prisoners of war.
Defense wanted her traumatic childhood to be taken into account
Montgomery's defense team argued that at the time of the incident, she was psychotic. Forty-one current and former lawyers as well as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights concurred. But Stinnett's family and friends wanted her to get capital punishment, her mental state notwithstanding. Richard Chaney, Stinnett's classmate, argued many people endure traumatic lives but don't commit crimes, reports NYT.
On Monday, her death was stayed by an Indiana court
On Monday night, a federal judge in Indiana admitted the applications of her lawyers that she shouldn't be executed as she isn't mentally sound. The stay on her execution was canceled by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals a day later, saying this claim should have been flagged earlier. "Last-minute stays on executions shouldn't be the norm, but an exception," it added.
She died at 1:30 am after Supreme Court vacated stays
Separately, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ordered a stay to allow Montgomery's claim linked to the Federal Death Penalty Act to be heard. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals issued another stay. But the Supreme Court vacated the stays, paving the path for her execution. She was pronounced dead at 1:31 am, the Bureau of Prisons said.
Her execution was vicious, unlawful, and unnecessary: Lawyer
Her lawyer Kelley Henry slammed the current Trump administration for the execution. "The government stopped at nothing in its zeal to kill this damaged and delusional woman. We should recognize Lisa Montgomery's execution for what it was: the vicious, unlawful, and unnecessary exercise of authoritarian power. Lisa Montgomery's execution was far from justice. We cannot let this happen again," Henry said.
The last time women were executed was in 1953
To note, two women in the US were given federal executions in 1953, the last such punishment before Montgomery. Bonnie Brown Heady and Ethel Rosenberg were executed for murder and kidnapping, and espionage respectively. With Montgomery's death, there are no women on death row. Two other inmates, Corey Johnson and Dustin Higgs are to be executed this week on Thursday and Friday respectively.