Lisa Montgomery, the only woman on federal death row, is set to be executed on January 12, just days before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, who has pledged to end the death penalty.
Montgomery was initially scheduled to be put to death on December 8. However, both her attorneys contracted the coronavirus after visiting her in prison and have been too sick to work on her case.
A federal judge has delayed the execution so that Montgomery’s lawyers have more time to prepare her clemency application. They plan to ask President Donald Trump to commute her sentence to life in prison without possibility of parole. If Montgomery’s execution goes forward, she will be the first female federal inmate to be executed in almost 70 years.
Montgomery was sentenced to death for the 2004 murder of a pregnant woman, Bobbie Jo Stinnett. Montgomery strangled the woman and cut open her abdomen to remove her 8-month-old fetus. The baby survived.
Montgomery’s lawyers say that her crime was committed in the midst of a psychotic episode, brought on after suffering years of physical and sexual abuse. A survivor of incest and sex trafficking, she is diagnosed with bipolar disorder with psychotic features and complex post-traumatic stress disorder.
Mental health experts who have examined her believe that her history of childhood trauma exacerbated a genetic predisposition to mental illness that ran in her family.
“It is difficult to grasp the extremity of the horrors Lisa suffered from her earliest childhood, including being raped by her stepfather, handed off to his friends for their use, sold to groups of adult men by her own mother and repeatedly gang raped, and relentlessly beaten and neglected,” said Sandra L Babcock, clinical professor of law at Cornell Law School, and one of Montgomery’s lawyers.
She has taken the lead in helping to delay the execution after both of Montgomery’s lead attorneys — assistant federal public defenders Kelley Henry and Amy...