Jan 12, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Federal judge temporarily halts execution of only woman on death row

Picture of demonstrators protesting against death row
Demonstrators protest federal executions of death row inmates in Washington, D.C. Photo: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images

A federal judge on Tuesday granted Lisa Montgomery, the only woman on federal death row, a stay of execution just hours before she was scheduled to die by lethal injection at a federal prison complex in Indiana.

The state of play: Judge James Hanlon of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana temporarily halted the execution so that a hearing could be held to determine Montgomery's mental competence. A date for the hearing has not yet been set, per CNN.

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

  • Montgomery was one of three inmates the Department of Justice scheduled to be executed this week, days before the inauguration of President-elect Biden, who is against the federal death penalty.

What they're saying: "The Court was right to put a stop to Lisa Montgomery's execution," Kelley Henry, one of Montgomery's attorneys, said, according to CNN.

  • "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."

Background: Montgomery was convicted in 2004 for the murder of a woman who was 8-months pregnant at the time, cutting her baby out of her stomach and kidnapping it. The baby survived.

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