Death Penalty

Judge's Stay Halting First Federal Execution of a Woman in 70 Years Has Been Vacated

Lisa Montgomery faces possible execution this evening.

|

A federal judge had ordered a stay preventing the Department of Justice from executing death row prisoner Lisa Montgomery today, only to have that stay lifted this afternoon by a higher court.

Even though William Barr stepped down as attorney general before Christmas, and even though President Donald Trump is in his office sulking, plans to execute more prisoners during the last days of the administration are still moving forward.

Montgomery is the only woman among the death row inmates the Justice Department scheduled for execution. Montgomery was convicted of choking a pregnant woman to death in 2004, then cutting the baby out of the woman's body to pass it off as her own. The child survived, and Montgomery was convicted and sentenced to death by a unanimous jury. If the execution were to happen, she'd be the first female prisoner put to death by the federal government since 1953.

But her attorneys have argued that she suffers severe mental illness, a result of long-term sexual abuse at the hands of her stepfather, who was encouraged by her mother. Montgomery's older sister has come forward to validate Montgomery's claims and to detail the sexual abuse she also endured when the two of them were children.

Montgomery's defense attorneys argue that her current mental state is so unstable that she no longer understands why the federal government seeks to execute her, and doing so would therefore violate her constitutional rights. Her attorneys brought in three experts, including a retired Federal Bureau of Prisons psychiatrist who used to treat her, to testify that her mental state is such that she cannot understand what's happening to her.

Monday evening, U.S. District Judge James Patrick Hanlon for the Southern District of Indiana ruled that Montgomery's lawsuit would likely succeed on the merits. Hanlon granted a motion to stay for a subsequent hearing to determine her mental competency.

Kelley Henry, Montgomery's attorney, sent out a prepared statement that read in part, "Mrs. Montgomery has brain damage and severe mental illness that was exacerbated by the lifetime of sexual torture she suffered at the hands of caretakers. The Eighth Amendment prohibits the execution of people like Mrs. Montgomery who, due to their severe mental illness or brain damage, do not understand the basis for their executions. Mrs. Montgomery is mentally deteriorating and we are seeking an opportunity to prove her incompetence."

The Justice Department is appealing the ruling, but if it holds, Hanlon's order will likely prevent Montgomery from being executed before the end of Trump's term. President-elect Joe Biden, a former supporter of the death penalty, now opposes it (and so does the Democratic Party platform). Even if a subsequent hearing leads to a judge giving the feds clearance to execute her, Biden may (and should!) commute her sentence to life in prison.

Montgomery is not the only death row inmate facing imminent execution in the last days of the Trump administration. Corey Johnson and Dustin Higgs have been scheduled for execution on Thursday and Friday, respectively. The two men tested positive for COVID-19 in December after an outbreak among staff and prisoners at the Terre Haute prison complex. Attorneys for Johnson and Higgs are trying to get injunctions blocking their executions in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, arguing that executing the two men while they're struggling with respiratory issues due to their COVID-19 infections would likely cause additional pain, violating their Eighth Amendment rights.

UPDATE: This afternoon, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan granted injunctions staying the executions of both Johnson and Higgs until March. Chutkan wrote in the ruling, "[E]xecuting inmates who are positive for COVID-19 in a facility with an active COVID-19 outbreak will endanger the lives of those performing the executions and those witnessing it. This is irresponsible at best, particularly when a temporary injunction will reduce these risks."

UPDATE: This afternoon, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit vacated the stay of execution on Montgomery. The Supreme Court also this afternoon denied her application for a stay of execution.

NEXT: School Evacuated After Student Brings Antique Dinner Plate

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Lisa Montgomery sounds like a fine candidate for the Koch / Reason #EmptyThePrisons policy.

    1. Scott Shackford told us the other day that “the libertarian position” on the death penalty is to oppose it. Oh, gee, thanks, Scott! I was scrambling for The Libertarian Position on this issue over here.

      Of course, it’s completely false. Does libertarianism allow for:
      1) the state to punish crime against persons and property?
      2) variety in the severity of punishment depending on the crime?

      If so, then there’s plenty of room for the death penalty for certain crimes within mainstream libertarian ideology.

      So no need for your “arguments from ideological authority”, Shackford.

      1. You assume Scott is libritarian. That’s stupid of you

        1. Google pays for every Person every hour online working from home job. I have received $23K in this month easily and I earns every weeks $5K to 8$K on the internet.Akl Every Person join this working easily by just just open this website and follow instructions
          COPY This Website OPEN HERE….. Visit Here

      2. I am making over $9k a month working part time. I stored being attentive to different human beings inform me how much money they are able to make on line so I decided to lok into it. well, it turned into all actual and has completely modified my life.

        That is what I do…. Home Profit System

        1. [ PART TIME JOB FOR USA ] Making money online more than 15$ just by doing simple work from home. I have received $18376 last month. Its an easy and simple jobS to do and its earnings are much better than regular office XYX job and even a little child EYD can do this and earns money. Everybody must try this job by just use the info
          on this page…..READ MORE

      3. then there’s plenty of room for the death penalty for certain crimes within mainstream libertarian ideology

        And if there’s not enough room there, then there’s plenty of room for one to examine polling data to see which penalties get better voting outcomes from particular types of voters/victims/criminals. Just a whole slew of options on which an election can turn.

        1. I am made $84, 8254 so far this year working online and I’m a full time student. I am using an online business. Here what I do,. for more information……… USA ONLINE JOBS

        2. Get $192 hourly from Google!…Yes this is Authentic since I just got my first payout of $24413 and this was just of a single week…QTPfhn I have also bought my Range Rover Velar right after this payout…It is really cool job I have ever had and you won’t forgive yourself if you do not check it…….Home Profit System

    2. Sorry, I was going to post this comment separately from yours.

    3. I’ve made $66,000 so far this year w0rking 0nline and I’m a full time student. I’m using an 0nline business opportunity I heard about and I’ve made such great m0ney. It’s really user friendly and I’m just so happy that I foundDFH out about it.Here… Visit Here

    4. Do you wanna earn money without investing money? That’s how I started this job CVT and Now I am making $200 to $300 per hour for doing online work from home.

      Apply Now here…….. Visit Here

    5. [ PART TIME JOB FOR USA ] Making money online more than 15$ just by doing simple works from home. I have received $18376 last month. Its an easy and simple job to do and its earnings are much better than regular office job and even a little child can do this and earns money. Everybody must try thisFGH job by just use the info
      on this page…. Visit Here

  2. Montgomery was convicted of choking a pregnant woman to death in 2004, then cutting the baby out of the woman’s body to pass it off as her own.

    Why hasn’t she been executed already? She deserves death.

    1. Politicians generally don’t like the heat when they push the button on a female murderer. Remember Karla Faye Tucker? It’s easier to just delay, delay, keep kicking the can until they age out of being horrible/their victims relatives have mostly died of old age (the various Manson Family women). Do it long enough, and it becomes some other politician’s problem.

      1. Fuck that. You read what she did. Crazy or not, this bitch should get the needle (or Old Sparky), and I am not feeling particularly guilty about that. People lie about shit after the fact all the time. Why is it coming out well after trial?

        No, no….this one gets the fucking needle.

        1. Why should you feel guilty? She’s the human equivalent of a rabid dog. Put her down humanely, and let God deal with exacting further judgment. Too bad the animals who abused her can’t be treated similarly.

          It’s not like she’s going to ever get any better. Though if she does get sicker, I predict a release, because then her medical expenses come off someone else’s budget…

          As far as stuff coming out later, it’s a death penalty case. That happens when you’ve a larger appellate budget than trial budget (both in time and money), and can throw the entire spaghetti pot at the wall to see what sticks.

          1. I am making over $9k a month working part time. I stored being attentive to different human beings inform me how much money they are able to make on line so I decided to lok into it.OKl well, it turned into all actual and has completely modified my life.

            That is what I do…. Home Profit System

      2. Yeah remember when that one cunt bombed a bunch of building in the 70s then got her sentance commuted by Clinton and is now a leader of blm?

        1. Fake news! There is no agreed upon definition of “bombing” according to Wikipedia or Snopes so we can’t justifiably call her a “bomber”.

          1. It was a kinetic event.

  3. Yeah it`s Possible…Anybody can earn 250$+ daily… You can earn from 6000-12000 a month or even more if you work as a full time job…It’s easy, just follow instructions on this page, read it carefully from start to finish… It’s a flexible job but a good
    eaning opportunity..

  4. I am creating an honest wage from home 1900 Dollars/week , that is wonderful, below a year agone i used to be unemployed during a atrocious economy. I convey God on a daily basis i used to be endowed these directions and currently it’s my duty to pay it forward and share it with everybody, Here is I started.. Here is More information.

  5. Was she crazy in 2004?
    Is this blatant sexism going to be praised under the Biden regime?
    Who is John Galt?

    1. Was she crazy in 2004?

      From the linked article:

      Two days before the crime, her former husband (and stepbrother) sought custody of two of her children. At the time, Lisa had told her new husband that she was pregnant, which her former husband knew wasn’t possible because of the forced sterilization. He threatened to expose the imagined pregnancy and use it against her in the custody battle.

      Sounds like premeditation to me. *Obligatory joke about the general sanity of women who lie about pregnancies.*

      1. It’s interesting that they say ‘forced sterilization’ but skip over the fact that she was an adult when she was sterilized and don’t mention any charges regarding the “forced sterilization”.

        1. All of which is nothing more than a sad story meant to be a distraction and generate pity. None of this is a mitigating factor in a brutal multiple homicide.

          1. Yeah, apparently the sister who came forward to say they were abused has managed not to murder any unrelated strangers and the other sisters that are alleged to have been raped also managed not to murder anyone. I might understand the abuse as relevant if her victim were involved in the abuse. As is, AFAICT, this is just proof that you could survive the sexual abuse without becoming murderously insane.

            1. Since I started fre+lancing I’ve been bringing in (((($)))90 bucks/h… I sit at home and i am doing my work from my laptop.CJd Th℮ best thing is that i get more time to spent with my family and with my kids and in the same time i can earn enough to support them…

              You can do it too. Start here—— > > Home Profit System

  6. “Montgomery’s defense attorneys argue that her current mental state is so unstable that she no longer understands why the federal government seeks to execute her, and doing so would therefore violate her constitutional rights.”

    I understand that is is somehow relevant, but I don’t understand why.

    1. It’s an attempt to get her under the umbrella provided by SCOTUS in Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atkins_v._Virginia

      In Atkins, SCOTUS said the state can’t execute criminals with intellectual disabilities anymore. There was a lot of whining about cases where states had killed, say the retarded, as in one infamous case (Rickey Ray Rector) where a condemned man asked if he could save some of his last meal for later…

      1. I’m not a strong proponent of the death penalty and I would rarely support it when the perpetrator was total batshit crazy or brain-damaged at the time of the incident. Not that they shouldn’t be punished or should ever be inflicted on society at any point in the future, but death not so much.

        That said, I see no reason why someone who wasn’t either of those things should have their penalty reduced or put on hold because they are now confused or putting on a good show of it, or they are now or have recently been sick. We’re supposed to get them lucid and physically healthy, then kill em?

        The same goes for those other mentioned who are making the case that COVID might have damaged their lungs and they might feel additional pain while they are being killed. First, so what if true? Second, that’s not how the needle works. Anyone saying these are valid reasons to delay an execution is purposely being obtuse or throwing monkey shit, and should be drummed out of the legal profession. Any judge accepting this as legitimate should have his gavel forcibly removed from his soft little hand and publicly shamed.

      2. Rector was perfectly normal, until he tried to commit suicide after shooting a cop. He deserved his death sentence and it was right to put him down like the rabid dog he was.

    2. I don’t even understand how it’s relevant. My toaster doesn’t understand that I’m getting rid of it because it shorted out and almost burned the house down, therefore, I shouldn’t get rid of it.

      Reminds me of Jacqueline Annette Williams. Killed a pregnant mother and cut the baby from the mother’s womb to pass off as her own. And by ‘pass off’ I mean she had a fake baby shower and had a fake birth certificate printed prior to the murders. “Murder*s*?” you say. Yeah, her and the two other men involved in the crime also killed two of the baby’s three young siblings. She was found with the baby, blood-stained debris from the triple homicide in her apartment, and her husband led the police to where they dumped the body of the older boy they took with them.

      Outgoing (and subsequently convicted of corruption) Gov. George Ryan couldn’t be bothered to look into the case to determine whether Arnette was wrongly convicted and granted blanket clemency to all the current death row inmates.

      1. The Constitutional prohibition is against “cruel and unusual punishments”. It says nothing about how the criminal feels or thinks about it, or if they are confused.

        Further, executions circa 1800 were either mostly by hanging or a sudden infusion of lead, both of which are undeniably far more “cruel” by the standard of any time than getting a needle in the arm and drifting off slowly into perma-slumber. The potential of having a little extra lung pain for a few seconds, even if true, doesn’t compare to writhing on the end of a rope while your lungs spasm until the brain mercifully shuts down, which the framers didn’t seem to have a problem with or they could have said so.

        To me, any supposed lack of cognitive understanding of your impending fate only benefits the person soon to be executed. Far better to be off fighting your demons somewhere than running through the mental countdown in your head.

  7. Well, so much for equality for women. We should strive to execute as many or more women than men. Prison population parity needs some work too.

    1. Well, so much for equality for women.

      Bobby Jo Sinnett’s body, Lisa Montgomery’s choice.

  8. “…plans to execute more prisoners during the last days of the administration are still moving forward.”

    While not technically untrue (they are still trying to execute Ms. Montgomery), the phrasing makes it sound like there are a bunch of executions scheduled. AFAIK, there aren’t (and the link doesn’t defend any such claim – it doesn’t say a thing about currently scheduled executions). Lisa Montgomery is the last one scheduled. Indeed, the last executions were before the linked article, so there weren’t any others between then and now either.

    While it’s fine to criticize the Trump administrations pursuit of executing criminals, being clear and accurate about it is also important. Most of them have already happened. Lisa Montgomery is the last one, and if the government loses this appeal (or it goes past the 20th and Biden commutes her sentence), there won’t be anymore, at least until 2024.

    1. If I’m wrong, and there are other pending executions, Shackford should name them. But the last thing i saw in early December had only 3 scheduled executions, and 2 of them happened in December. The last of them was Ms. Montgomery.

      1. If I’m wrong, and there are other pending executions, Shackford should name them.

        From TFA:

        Montgomery is not the only death row inmate facing imminent execution in the last days of the Trump administration. Corey Johnson and Dustin Higgs have been scheduled for execution on Thursday and Friday, respectively.

        So, you’re wrong on two counts. There are more executions planned for the last days of the Trump administration and Shackford named them. He also provided this:

        UPDATE: This afternoon, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan granted injunctions staying the executions of both Johnson and Higgs until March.

        We’ll see if anyone besides Shackford will mention how interesting that all Joe Biden will be doing is undoing the damage that he has done by pushing through the 1990s crime bill that federalized a bunch of crimes and the made them punishable by the DP.

        1. Oh, and for double your hypocrisy, the Prez who signed this bill was none other than anti-death penalty enthusiastic signer of death warrants as governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton.

          1. Nobody seems to be asking how all these murders suddenly became federal crimes.

            Maybe the conservative majority on the Supreme Court will look into that.

            1. In Lisa Montgomery’s case, she traveled from eastern Kansas into western Missouri, brutally murdered this young pregnant woman, then cut out her unborn baby and took it back to Kansas.

              That’s how it became a federal crime.

              1. I’m not sure why Missouri couldn’t have extradited her for the crime and prosecuted it at the state level.

                1. It looks like you get it.

                  But, here’s the thing, we (well not me but the rest of y’all:) just elected as president the guy who was pretty much responsible for this law. Pretty much shows a president with little regard for constitutionally delegated powers.

                  Yeah, I know he’s agin the death penalty now. So, can we hope that Joe Biden will immediately get onto getting Congress to repeal all of the bad legislation that he pushed thru.

                  Yeah, right. 🙂

              2. I’m not sure that the founder’s had that kind of thing in mind when they thought about “interstate commerce”.

                They were perfectly content to leave police powers in the hands of the states.

                When JFK was assassinated the only law that had be broken was the State of Texas’ law against murder.

        2. I honestly don’t recall that paragraph being there when i responded, but if it was, I apologize. (I didn’t take a screenshot of the article in the state it was in to compare to the current article. Regardless, the link at “plans to execute more prisoners” should have actually backed up that statement, rather than wait to name them half a dozen paragraphs down – it doesn’t).

          I definitely responded before the updates.

  9. Same shit happened couple weeks ago with a different distrcit judge. Circuit court squashed it quick. Expect the same to happen here, but she may be close enough to run the clock. Need to be some sanctions for judges that pull this crap

    1. Granting myself +10 internets for calling that one right

  10. ffs, just take her out behind the woodshed. What a waste of taxpayer money keeping her alive.

    1. That’s my only big problem with the death penalty. $35K per year to house the little bastards vs state paid-for appeals and everything that goes with it that runs up well over a million, not counting the decade or two of housing them for the entire appeals process, during which the family of their victims must also deal with it. The death penalty lost its societal value when $5 worth of reusable rope was no longer the preferred treatment.

      1. The death penalty lost its societal value when $5 worth of reusable rope was no longer the preferred treatment.

        Due to the ongoing pandemic, this state no longer allows the use of reusable rope.

  11. I’m generally opposed to the death penalty in a society that has the resources to keep people imprisoned and away from an ability to do harm. Mostly it is because I don’t trust the judicial system to be as free from abuse and objective to ensure just enforcement of any sentence, let alone one that is irrevocable. It’s kind of the ‘rather a 100 criminals go free than one innocent man get convicted’ approach.

    I think, though, that there is a good case to be made that it should exist for extreme violations of NAP such as legitimate serial killers (multiple victims over an extended period of time) and those who commit mass murder to further political aims.

    1. let alone one that is irrevocable.

      So when an inmate spends 20 yrs. in prison, wrongly convicted, the system gives them those years back?

      You say this like the system is even remotely capable of, much less interested in, making those wrongly convicted whole. Shit, the incoming President’s biggest achievement as VP was to relax the standards and expand the means by which the State can rather knowingly deprive innocent people of their rights.

      Sounds like you’ve been duped into believing in the benevolence of government and the idea that a little abrogation of liberty is OK as long as the punishment isn’t too harsh.

      1. I never said I agreed with our current justice system, just that when a society has the resources to imprison rather than kill, it should take it. The remedies we could work towards to make those wrongly convicted whole are much broader when, you know, they are still alive to recompense them.

        1. I didn’t say you agreed with our current justice system. I said you subscribe to a false equivalence: killing people vs. not killing people. Along that same false equivalence, you’re falsely equating
          an illegitimate aim of government, social reform, with a more classically understood legitimate function, protection and justice.

          Let me be more clear; we both agree that it’s better to let 100 guilty men go free than to imprison 1 innocent man, but that’s not practical/reality, and really it’s not even the theoretical reality you’re proposing. According to your moral framework, from exactly how many people and/or how much money is a government allowed to steal from people to house prisoners? Which system is less just; the one that incidentally kills innocent men or the one that kills people collecting taxes (see Eric Garner) to house violent criminals only to subsequently release them to do more violence (see James Little)?

          I’m not questioning your assertion that you agree with the current system because you don’t. I’m questioning the supposed superiority of your proposed system on practical as well as theoretical/moral grounds.

          1. I said you subscribe to a false equivalence: killing people vs. not killing people. Along that same false equivalence, you’re falsely equating
            an illegitimate aim of government, social reform, with a more classically understood legitimate function, protection and justice.

            False dichotomy, not false equivalence.

  12. So Trump is an insurrectionist, but the woman who literally rips a baby from a dead women’s womb needs some sympathy.

    Does the left even see their hypocrisy and stupidity, is it just they are obtuse or is it deliberate.

  13. No doubt if her execution is halted her mental state will quickly improve. As for the two killers scheduled for execution later this week but arguing their executions should be delayed because they suffer from COVID, seems carrying out these executions will end their suffering from COVID.

  14. In a world supposedly free of gender bias, what does it matter that she is “the only woman” on death row?

    If some dude killed a pregnant woman and cut her fetus out of her womb, that son of bitch would have been cut, drawn, and quartered way before now.

    1. If some dude killed a pregnant woman and cut her fetus out of her womb, that son of bitch would have been cut, drawn, and quartered way before now.

      Untold millions of cases of men depriving women of their right to choose, what’s one more? /sarc

  15. Nope. Sexual abuse doesn’t make you incapable of knowing that killing a woman and cutting her baby out of the womb is wrong.

    1. wellcome to the online job. I make 85 dollar an hour posting to internet. Very easy job and anyone can do it. Everyone need money during this time of COVID Crisis. For Detail Click On here… Read More

  16. Maybe Joe Biden will keep Congress so busy undoing all the bad laws that he’s responsible for that it will be a long time before they can get to any new progressive disasters.

    A guy can dream.

  17. I just got paid $7500 working off my computer this month. And if you think that’s cool, my divorced friend has twin toddlers and made over $8k her first month. It feels so good making so much money when other people have to work for so much less Read More.

    1. Good. Better late than never.

  18. [ PART TIME JOB FOR USA ] Making money online more than 15$ just by doing simple work from home. I have received $18376 last month. Its an easy and simple job to do and its earningis are much better than regular office job and even a little child can do this and earns money. Everybody must try this job by just use the info
    on this page…… MORE INFO

  19. Even if a subsequent hearing leads to a judge giving the feds clearance to execute her, Biden may (and should!) commute her sentence to life in prison.

    If she suffers from such brain damage that she truly doesn’t understand what’s going on, then life imprisonment without parole would be just as unjust as the death penalty.

  20. Get $192 hourly from Google!…Yes this is Authentic since I just got my first payout of $24413 and this was just of a single week… DEqaz I have also bought my Range Rover Velar right after this payout…It is really cool job I have ever had and you won’t forgive yourself if you do not check it…….Home Profit System

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.