Judge Grants Stay of Execution for Lisa Montgomery

1st execution of female inmate in 67 years halted

1st execution of female inmate in 67 years halted

Montgomery may escape the death penalty entirely, as president-elect Joe Biden - due to be sworn into office on Jan 20 - opposes capital punishment. Ten federal inmates have since been put to death.

In 2004, Montgomery strangled 23-year-old Barbara Jo Stinnett to death, then sliced her open and stole her unborn child. She then used a kitchen knife to cut the baby girl from her womb.

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

"As we walked across the threshold [of Montgomery's home], our "amber alert" was scrolling across the TV at that very moment", recalled Randy Strong, who was part of the northwest Missouri major-case squad at the time.

Writing for the panel majority, Judge Gregory Katsas rejected Montgomery's claim that when it comes to scheduling executions, the federal government must follow that law of the state in which the death row inmate was convicted.

Federal executions had been on pause for 17 years and only three men had been executed by the federal government since 1963 until the practice was resumed last year under Trump, whose outspoken support for capital punishment long predates his entry into politics.

Montgomery, now 52, would have been the first female federal inmate to be put to death in nearly 70 years had her execution in Terre Haute, Indiana, gone ahead as scheduled on 12 January.

"Mrs Montgomery is mentally deteriorating and we are seeking an opportunity to prove her incompetence", Ms Henry said in a statement. She hasn't been able to continue that hobby or read since her glasses were taken away from her out of concern she could commit suicide.

Montgomery's lawyers have argued that sexual abuse during her childhood led to mental illness.

But her defenders believe that she suffers from severe mental health issues, stemming from abuse she suffered as a child.

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"You can't fake brain scans that show the brain damage", she said.

United States judge James Patrick Hanlon on Monday granted a stay of execution to allow the court to conduct a hearing to determine whether she is competent to be executed, according to a court filing made in the U.S. district court of Southern District of Indiana.

Whatever the appeals court decides, the loser is likely to take the case to the Supreme Court, which will make the final ruling.

"While this evidence certainly shows that Ms. Montgomery understands that she is supposed to be executed soon, it does not demonstrate that she rationally understands the 'meaning and objective of the punishment, '" Judge Hanlon wrote in his ruling.

A legal battle continued Tuesday to decide the fate of a U.S. woman that the government of Donald Trump intends to execute before leaving power, despite doubts about her mental state.

Details of the crime at times left jurors in tears during her trial. The preceding hours had been a blur in which he photographed Stinnett's body and spent a sleepless night looking for clues - unsure of whether the baby was dead or alive and no idea what she looked like.

She was arrested the next day after showing off the premature infant, Victoria Jo, who is now 16 years old and hasn't spoken publicly about the tragedy.

Prosecutors said the motive was that Montgomery's ex-husband knew she had undergone a tubal ligation that made her sterile and planned to reveal she was lying about being pregnant in an effort to get custody of two of their four children.

Needing a baby before a fast-approaching court date, Ms Montgomery turned her focus on Ms Stinnett, whom she had met at dog shows. 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". They have called the decision to execute her a "profound injustice".

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