Only woman on federal death row gets a stay of execution

Only woman on federal death row – who murdered pregnant victim and cut the baby from her belly – gets a stay of execution after her lawyers contract COVID visiting her in prison

  • Lisa Montgomery was set to be executed on December 8 in Terre Haute, Indiana
  • She would be the first female death row inmate to be executed in nearly 60 years
  • U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss temporarily blocked her death Thursday 
  • Her attorneys had sought to file a clemency petition on her behalf
  • But they tested positive for COVID-19 after they flew to visit her at a Texas prison
  • Montgomery killed Bobbie Jo Stinnett in Skidmore, Missouri in December 2004 

A judge has temporarily blocked the government’s plan to execute the only woman on federal death row after her lawyers contracted COVID-19 visiting her in prison. 

Lisa Montgomery was set to be executed on December 8 in Terre Haute, Indiana. She would have become the first female death row inmate to be executed in almost six decades.  

The order, handed down Thursday by U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss in Washington, prohibits the federal Bureau of Prisons from carrying out her execution before the end of the year. 

Her lawyers, Kelley Henry and Amy Harwell, tested positive for the virus after they flew to visit her at a Texas prison last month. In court papers, they said each roundtrip visit involved two flights, hotel stays and interaction with airline and hotel staff, as well as prison employees.  

They had sought to delay the execution in order to file a clemency petition on her behalf. 

Montgomery was convicted of killing Bobbie Jo Stinnett, 23, in Skidmore, Missouri in December 2004, using a rope to strangle her eight months pregnant victim, and then using a kitchen knife to cut the baby girl from the womb, authorities said.

Prosecutors said Montgomery then took the child with her, and attempted to pass the girl off as her own.  


Lisa Montgomery, who is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on December 8 at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Ind. Montgomery was convicted of fatally strangling a pregnant woman, cutting her body open and kidnapping her baby

Montgomery was convicted of killing Bobbie Jo Stinnett, 23, pictured, in Skidmore, Missouri in December 2004, using a rope to strangle her eight months pregnant victim, and then using a kitchen knife to cut the baby girl from the womb, authorities said

Montgomery’s legal team has argued that their client suffers from serious mental illnesses and cannot assist in filing her own clemency petition. 

That’s in part because all of her clothes have been taken away leaving her only with a ‘sheet of paper and a single crayon’ in her cell, attorney Sandra Babcock said in court this week.

Both Henry and Harwell have serious symptoms from the virus and are ‘functionally incapacitated’ and thus unable to help file a clemency petition, Babcock said. 

Another attorney could not be assigned to file one because Montgomery’s mental status has deteriorated since the Justice Department scheduled her execution last month, Babcock argued.

She added that Montgomery does not trust many lawyers, but Henry and Harwell have worked with her for years and have gained her trust, 

In his ruling, Moss said that if the execution moves forward as scheduled, Montgomery would ‘lose her statutory right to meaningful representation by counsel in the clemency process.’ 

He said the lawyers should file a clemency petition by December 24 or bring on other lawyers to assist.

Babcock hailed the ruling as ‘a meaningful opportunity to prepare and present a clemency application after her attorneys recover from COVID.’

She said: ‘Mrs. Montgomery´s case presents compelling grounds for clemency, including her history as a victim of gang rape, incest, and child sex trafficking, as well as her severe mental illness. 

‘She will now have the opportunity to present this evidence to the President with a request that he commute her sentence to life imprisonment.’

Montgomery’s legal team has argued that their client suffers from serious mental illnesses and cannot assist in filing her own clemency petition. That’s in part because all of her clothes have been taken away leaving her only with a ‘sheet of paper and a single crayon’ in her cell, attorney Sandra Babcock said in court this week

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