Saturday, 23 January, 2021


US Execution of Woman on Hold, 2 Others Halted over COVID-19

Stay granted to Lisa Montgomery, first female inmate on death row in US Execution of only woman on US death row halted at 11th hour
Bennie Garza | 13 January, 2021, 11:13

Their executions were stayed on Tuesday due to them having contracted Covid-19.

The U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for Montgomery's execution with a pair of orders issued just before midnight.

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.

Kelley Henry, Montgomery's federal public defender, expressed her disappointment in the day's events, saying the federal government violated the Constitution, federal law and its own regulation to put her client to death.

"The craven bloodlust of a failed administration was on full display tonight", Henry said.

On Monday evening, a federal judge offered the defence a brief lifeline, ordering a stay of execution to allow time to assess Montgomery's mental state. She did not understand the meaning of her sentence, they said, a prerequisite for execution. "The current administration knows this".

Montgomery's lawyers had argued she was too mentally incompetent to be executed, and said she had been born brain-damaged and endured a life of extreme abuse before committing her crime.

Separately, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued another stay in Montgomery's case for an appeal related to the Justice Department's execution protocols and said briefs must be fully filed in that case by January 29, raising the prospect her execution could be delayed until after President-elect Joe Biden takes office.

In a dramatic move late on Monday, a judge in IN had halted the scheduled injection until a mental competency hearing could be held.

The US Justice Department said Lisa Montgomery, 52, was pronounced dead at 1.31am Eastern Time (0631 GMT) at a penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana.

The Justice Department is likely to ask the Supreme Court to intervene.

By Tuesday afternoon, that stay had been undone. After the jury heard additional evidence during the sentencing phase, they found that a death sentence was warranted and that Montgomery "committed the offense in an especially heinous or depraved manner", the order states. The decision was taken considering Montgomery's deteriorating mental health condition. The infant survived and was raised by her father.

Montgomery drove 170 miles from her Kansas farmhouse to the northwest Missouri town of Skidmore under the guise of adopting a puppy from Bobbie Jo Stinnett, a 23-year-old dog breeder. She strangled Stinnett with a rope before performing a crude cesarean and fleeing with the baby.

"The issue in this case has never been about whether she is legally guilty; she is", Babcock said.

Montgomery originally was scheduled to be put to death on December 8.

"The record before the Court contains ample evidence that Ms Montgomery's current mental state is so divorced from reality that she can not rationally understand the government's rationale for her execution", the ruling stated.

Montgomery's execution date was initially delayed after two of her lawyers fell ill with the coronavirus after traveling to visit her in prison. Prosecutors intend to appeal the ruling on Higgs and Johnson, according to court documents. We also speak with Sister Helen Prejean, Catholic nun and one of the world's leading death penalty opponents, who says Trump embarked on his late killing spree simply because "he has the power to do it".

Both of their executions have been halted by a federal court judge as the men are still recovering from COVID-19.

She was convicted of murder in the 1997 killing of her husband after she conspired with her lover, who stabbed Douglas Gissendaner to death.

Women have accounted for less than 4% of the almost 16,000 executions carried out in the United States since the 1600s, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

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