Judge is blocking the execution of Lisa Montgomery, the only woman on federal death row, to allow a hearing on mental health.
Indiana federal judge blocked Tuesday’s program execution of convicted murderer Lisa Montgomery, the only woman on death row in the United States, to allow a hearing on whether she is too mentally ill to be put to death.
The order, made less than 24 hours before Lisa Montgomery was executed on Tuesday at the federal prison complex in Terre Haute, Indiana, temporarily prevents the Federal Bureau of Prisons from continuing her execution.
It is one of three executions the US Department of Justice had scheduled for the last full week of Republican President Donald Trump’s administration.
The Justice Department appealed the Indiana ruling, which was released late Monday night, to the U.S. Circuit’s 7th Chicago Court of Appeals.
Separately, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit also voted on Monday to stay the execution to hold hearings on whether the Department of Justice had given insufficient notice to the Montogomery run date.
The court granted the stay pending appeal from the refusal of the district court of #LisaMontgomeryclaim that the federal authorities violated the requirement of the Federal Death Penalty Act that it must follow the enforcement procedures “of the state in which the conviction [was] imposed.” https://t.co/tWQSFb5J0W pic.twitter.com/P7dtVse3ZH
– Robert Dunham (@RDunhamDPIC) January 12, 2021
The move also pushes any new execution date into President-elect Joe Biden’s administration, unless the Justice Department can get Supreme Court intervention.
Biden takes office on Jan.20 and says he will seek to abolish the federal death penalty.
Federal executions had been suspended for 17 years, and only three men had been executed by the federal government since 1963 until the practice resumed last year under Trump. Its administration executed 10 people Last year.
Montgomery, 52, was scheduled to be killed by lethal injection on Tuesday at 11 p.m. GMT.
She was convicted in 2007 in Missouri for kidnapping and strangling Bobbie Jo Stinnett, then eight months pregnant. Montgomery then cut Stinnett’s fetus out of the womb. The child survived.
In the Indiana ruling, District Judge James Patrick Hanlon granted a stay to allow the court to conduct a so-called jurisdiction hearing.
The US Supreme Court finds that the execution of an insane prisoner violates a constitutional prohibition on “cruel and unusual” punishment.
Doctors who examined her and her attorneys told Indiana court that Montgomery suffered from brain disorders and bipolar disorder, among other mental illnesses.
She is having auditory hallucinations, expressed her uncertainty as to whether the child of the woman she killed was really hers and said that God was speaking to her through connected puzzles, according to court documents.
Justice Department attorneys responded with transcripts of phone calls from Montgomery Prison that they said showed she understood her execution date was approaching.
“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 purpose of the punishment,'” Judge Hanlon wrote in his ruling.
Montgomery’s attorneys asked for clemency from Trump last week, saying she committed her crime after a childhood in which she was repeatedly abused and raped by her stepfather and friends, and that she would therefore face life imprisonment.
Two other detainees to be executed by the federal government: a 52-year-old man Corey Johnson will be put to death on January 14 and Dustin Higgs, 48, will be executed on January 15.
Their lawyers have filed legal challenges.