January 13: The US Supreme Court has cleared the way for the Justice Department to carry out the first execution of a female death-row inmate in almost seven decades.
The rulings, handed down just after midnight on Wednesday, allow the federal Bureau of Prisons to proceed with the execution of Lisa Montgomery, the Associated Press reported.
The court lifted an injunction that had been put in place by the 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals that had temporarily halted Montgomery’s execution. It came hours after the Supreme Court also lifted a separate injunction by the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
Montgomery is scheduled to be put to death at the federal prison complex in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Her lawyers have argued she is not mentally competent and should not be executed. They say she suffered from years of physical and emotional abuse and is severely mentally ill.
Lisa Montgomery faced execution Tuesday for killing 23-year-old Bobbie Jo Stinnett in the northwest Missouri town of Skidmore in 2004. She used a rope to strangle Stinnett, who was eight months pregnant, and then cut the baby girl from the womb with a kitchen knife. Montgomery took the child with her and attempted to pass the girl off as her own.
But an appeals court granted a stay of execution Tuesday, shortly after another appeals court lifted an Indiana judge’s ruling that found she was likely mentally ill and couldn’t comprehend she would be put to death. If a higher court puts the execution back on, Montgomery, the only female on federal death row, would receive a lethal injection at a federal prison complex in Terre Haute, Indiana. By Tuesday night, the Supreme Court lifted a separate injunction that was put in place by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
Separately, a federal judge for the U.S. District of Columbia halted the scheduled executions later this week of Corey Johnson and Dustin Higgs in a ruling Tuesday. Johnson, convicted of killing seven people related to his drug trafficking in Virginia, and Higgs, convicted of ordering the murders of three women in Maryland, both tested positive for COVID-19 last month.
Delays of any of this week’s scheduled executions beyond Biden’s inauguration next Tuesday would likely mean they will not happen any time soon, or ever, since a Biden administration is expected to oppose carrying out federal death sentences.