Lisa Montgomery became the first woman executed by the federal government in 67 years early Wednesday. Montgomery, 52, was executed by lethal injection at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana. Her time of death was 1:31 a.m., more than seven hours after her originally scheduled time of execution.
As a curtain was raised in the execution chamber, Montgomery looked momentarily bewildered as she glanced at journalists peering at her from behind thick glass in the observation room, according to the Associated Press. At the start of the execution process, an executioner standing over Montgomery's shoulder leaned over, removed her face mask and asked if she had any last words. Montgomery responded with a quiet "no." She said nothing else, the AP reported.
The execution came after hours of legal wrangling before the Supreme Court cleared the way for the execution to move forward. Montgomery was the first of the final three federal inmates scheduled to die before next week's inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, who is expected to discontinue federal executions.
The last woman executed by the federal government was Bonnie Brown Heady on Dec. 18, 1953, for the kidnapping and murder of a 6-year-old boy in Missouri. The last woman executed by a state was Kelly Gissendaner, 47, on Sept. 30, 2015, in Georgia. She was convicted of murder in the 1997 slaying of her husband after she conspired with her lover, who stabbed Douglas Gissendaner to death.
The Associated Press reports a judge has halted the U.S. government's first execution of a female inmate in nearly seven decades, saying a court must first determine whether the Kansas woman who killed an expectant mother, cut the baby from her womb and then tried to pass off the newborn as her own is mentally competent.
The order, handed down less than 24 hours before Lisa Montgomery was set to be executed Tuesday at the federal prison complex in Terre Haute, Indiana, temporarily blocks the federal Bureau of Prisons from moving forward with her execution.
Montgomery's lawyers have said their client suffers from hallucinations — including hearing her abusive mother's voice — as well as a disoriented sense of reality and gaps in her consciousness. They have long argued that she is not mentally fit to be executed because she suffers from serious mental illness and faced years of emotional and sexual trauma as a child.
U.S. District Judge James Patrick Hanlon found that the court must first hold a hearing to determine whether Montgomery meets the legal criteria for competency before the execution can move forward, finding she “would be irreparably injured if the government executes her when she is not competent to be executed.”
MISSION, Kan. (KSNT/AP) -- Lisa Montgomery, who strangled Bobbie Jo Stinnett with a rope before performing a crude cesarean and fleeing with the pregnant woman's baby in December 2004, awaits execution Tuesday.
If the lethal injection is carried out as scheduled at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana, Montgomery would be the first woman executed by the federal government in about six decades.
Montgomery drove about 170 miles from her Melvern, Kansas, farmhouse to the northwest Missouri town of Skidmore under the guise of adopting a rat terrier puppy from Stinnett, a 23-year-old dog breeder, on Dec. 16, 2004.
Montgomery was arrested the next day after showing off the premature infant, Victoria Jo, as her own. The girl is now 16 years old and hasn't spoken publicly about about the tragedy.
Montgomery had a history of faking pregnancies, but suddenly had a baby. Prosecutors said her motive was that her ex-husband knew she had undergone a tubal ligation that made her sterile and planned to reveal she was lying about being pregnant in an effort to get custody of two of their four children. Needing a baby before a fast-approaching court date, Montgomery turned her focus on Stinnett, whom she had met at dog shows.
Montgomery's lawyers, though, have argued that sexual abuse during Montgomery's childhood led to mental illness. The jurors who heard the case, some crying through the gruesome testimony, disregarded the defense in convicting her of kidnapping resulting in death.
Prosecutors argued that Stinnett regained consciousness and tried to defend herself as Montgomery used a kitchen knife to cut the baby girl from her womb. Later that day, Montgomery called her husband to pick her up in the parking lot of a Long John Silver's in Topeka, Kansas, telling him she had delivered the baby earlier in the day at a nearby birthing center.
She eventually confessed, and the rope and bloody knife used to kill Stinnett were found in her car. A search of her computer showed she used it to research caesareans and order a birthing kit.