WASHINGTON – The state of Indiana executed Lisa Montgomery early Wednesday, the only woman on federal death row in the United States, and the first to be executed in nearly seven decades.
Montgomery, 52, was pronounced dead at 1:31 am local time after receiving a lethal injection at the Terre Haute federal prison complex.
Late Monday, a federal court judge had ordered a stay of execution to conduct a hearing to determine her competency to be executed.
In that ruling, Judge James Hanlon of the US District Court for the Southern District of Indiana wrote: “Ms. Montgomery is presently unable to rationally understand the government’s rationale for her execution.”
But Montgomery was put to death after the US Supreme Court lifted the stay.
Her attorney, Kelley Henry, said in a statement that “the craven bloodlust of a failed administration was on full display tonight. Everyone who participated in the execution of Lisa Montgomery should feel shame.”
Montgomery had been sentenced to death for killing 23-year-old Bobbie Jo Stinnett in Missouri in 2004. After strangling Stinnett, who was eight months pregnant, she cut out her baby, then abducted it and claimed it as her own. The baby survived.
The Cornell Law School’s Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide said Montgomery was “a survivor of multiple rapes, child abuse, torture, and domestic violence” who suffered “years of torture at the hands of caregivers, documented brain damage, and untreated severe mental illness made it impossible for Mrs. Montgomery to function in the world.”
Henry said that no one disagreed that Montgomery was the victim of “unspeakable torture and sex trafficking,” nor could they credibly dispute her “longstanding debilitating mental disease.”
“Our Constitution forbids the execution of a person who is unable to rationally understand her execution. The current administration knows this. And they killed her anyway,” Henry said.
She added that “thousands of organizations and individuals” had supported Montgomery’s request for clemency to President Donald Trump, which went unacknowledged.
Two other executions were to be pushed through before the end of Trump’s term next week, but were halted on Tuesday after both men contracted COVID-19. They were to be the last in a series under Trump since he ended a 17-year hiatus on federal executions in July.
“We have seen just how far President Trump and his administration will go in their disdain for justice and the rule of law,” Henry said. “We should recognize Lisa Montgomery’s execution for what it was: the vicious, unlawful, and unnecessary exercise of authoritarian power. We cannot let this happen again.”
President-elect, Democrat Joe Biden is expected to abolish the death penalty.