Dec 26, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Judge delays execution of only woman on federal death row

The Terre Haute Federal Correctional Complex in Indiana where Lisa Montgomery was scheduled to be executed.

The Terre Haute Federal Correctional Complex in Indiana where Lisa Montgomery was scheduled to be executed. Photo: Jeremy Hogan/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

A federal judge has delayed the execution of Lisa Montgomery, the only woman on federal death row, ruling that the Department of Justice didn't follow the proper timeline under a previous court order, AP reports.

Why it matters: Under the order, Bureau of Prisons cannot reschedule Montgomery’s execution until at least Jan. 1, potentially setting up an execution date after President-elect Joe Biden takes office on Jan. 20.

  • Justice Department guidelines requires that a death-row inmate be notified at least 20 days before his or her execution. But when the rescheduled date is fewer than 20 days, the inmate must be notified "as soon as possible."

Context: Montgomery was convicted of the 20o4 killing of Bobbie Jo Stinnett, who was eight-months pregnant at the time. After strangling Stinnett, Montgomery cut her baby out of her stomach and kidnapped the baby girl, who survived.

  • The Bureau of Prisons scheduled Montgomery’s execution date for Dec. 8, but U.S. District Court Judge Randolph Moss delayed the execution after Montgomery’s attorneys contracted coronavirus and prevented the agency from rescheduling the execution before the end of the year.
  • Bureau of Prisons rescheduled Montgomery’s execution for Jan. 12, but Moss ruled Wednesday that the agency could not reschedule the date while a stay was in place.
  • Montgomery's lawyers have argued Montgomery suffers from serious mental illnesses.

What he's saying: “The Court, accordingly, concludes that the Director’s order setting a new execution date while the Court’s stay was in effect was ‘not in accordance with law,’” Moss wrote, per AP.

The big picture: Federal executions had been stalled for 16 years, until the Trump administration resumed federal capital punishment in July.

  • TJ Ducklo, press secretary for the Biden-Harris campaign, previously told Axios that the president-Elect "opposes the death penalty, now and in the future, and as president will work to end its use."
  • However, Biden's team has not said if executions would be paused immediately once he takes office or how he would handle executions scheduled by the Trump administration.
  • If Montgomery is executed, it will be the first federal execution of a woman in more than 65 years, per The New York Times.

Go deeper: Trump's last word on executions

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