Execution of first death row woman in 70 years halted over mental health fears

The execution of the first woman on death row in 70 years has been delayed by a judge over fears she’s unable to understand why she’s being executed.

Lisa Montgomery, 52, was due to die by lethal injection today at the Terre Haute federal prison in Indiana. But a state judge has blocked her execution at the eleventh hour basing his ruling on mental health grounds.

late last night, Judge James Patrick Hanlon granted Montgomery a 24 hour stay of execution citing evidence that she is unable to understand the government’s rationale for her execution.

When, or if, her execution goes ahead Montgomery will become the first woman to be federally executed in America for 70 years.

Her lawyers appealed against the death penalty last year and managed to delay the date of Montgomery’s execution from December 8 to January 12.

Montgomery’s lawyer, Kelley Henry, welcomed Tuesday’s ruling and said the court was right to put a stop to her execution, reports CNN.

‘The court was right to put a stop to Lisa Montgomery’s execution’, Henry said.

‘As the court found, Mrs Montgomery ‘made a strong showing’ of her current incompetence to be executed.

Mrs Montgomery has brain damage and severe mental illness that was exacerbated by the lifetime of sexual torture she suffered at the hands of caretakers.

‘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.’

Montgomery was convicted of killing 23-year-old Bobbie Jo Stinnett in the northwest Missouri town of Skidmore in December 2004.

She drove from her Kansas home to Stinnett’s house under the guise of adopting a rat terrier puppy, prosecutors said. But when she got there Montgomery used a rope to throttle Ms Stinnett, who was eight months pregnant.

Her victim was conscious and desperately tried to fight for her life as Montgomery then used a kitchen knife to brutally cut out her foetus, authorities said.

Prosecutors said Montgomery removed the baby from Ms Stinnett’s body, took the child with her and attempted to pass the girl off as her own. Fortunately, the infant was recovered alive and well.

Montgomery was eventually charged with kidnapping resulting in the death of Ms Stinnett.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, the last woman to be executed by federal execution was Bonnie Heady, who was put to death in a gas chamber in Missouri in 1953.

The federal death penalty ‘applies in all 50 states and U.S. territories but is used relatively rarely’ in comparison to state executions.

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