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U.S. Executes Lisa Montgomery for 2004 Murder


Women are scarce on death row in the United States. According to a quarterly report from the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, just 2 percent of those inmates on death row are women. With Ms. Montgomery’s execution, there are now no women on federal death row.

The last women to be executed by the federal government were Bonnie Brown Heady for kidnapping and murder and Ethel Rosenberg for espionage, both in 1953.

Ms. Montgomery’s execution was originally scheduled for last month. But after two of her lawyers contracted the coronavirus, a judge delayed it, and the Justice Department rescheduled.

In her final days, Ms. Montgomery found some fleeting reprieve in the courts. Her lawyers had claimed that she was incompetent for execution, citing mental illness, neurological impairment and complex trauma. A federal judge in Indiana issued a stay on Monday night so that the court could conduct a hearing to determine her competency. But a panel on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals vacated that stay on Tuesday, writing that Ms. Montgomery’s claim could have been brought earlier. The judges also cited Supreme Court precedent, which emphasizes that last-minute stays of execution “should be the extreme exception, not the norm.”

Still, other court orders continued to block her execution well after the Bureau of Prisons’ tentatively scheduled execution time of 6 p.m. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued a separate stay so that the court could hear her claim related to the Federal Death Penalty Act, and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its own stay.

But the Supreme Court cleared the way for the execution to proceed, as it has done with the previous 10 inmates executed by the Trump administration. On Monday, the court overturned both stays, the remaining barriers to her execution, and rejected each of Ms. Montgomery’s requests for reprieve.

In a lengthy statement, Ms. Montgomery’s longtime lawyer Kelley Henry maintained that the government violated the law by executing her client, who suffered from “debilitating mental disease.” Beyond the crime for which she expressed remorse and the abuse she endured, Ms. Henry said, Ms. Montgomery was a Christian who adored her family.

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