The Irish Times view on US death row: cruel to the end

Federal authorities on Wednesday executed 54-year-old Lisa Montgomery, the first woman on federal death row to die in 67 years

US federal authorities on Wednesday executed 54-year-old Lisa Montgomery, who was convicted of killing a pregnant woman and cutting the baby from her womb in the northwest Missouri town of Skidmore in 2004. Photograph: Attorneys for Lisa Montgomery via AP

US federal authorities on Wednesday executed 54-year-old Lisa Montgomery, who was convicted of killing a pregnant woman and cutting the baby from her womb in the northwest Missouri town of Skidmore in 2004. Photograph: Attorneys for Lisa Montgomery via AP

 

In another cruel twist to the final act of the Trump presidency, US federal authorities on Wednesday executed 54-year-old Lisa Montgomery, the first woman on federal death row to die in 67 years.

Despite a flurry of late appeals, last-minute stays on the execution of the deeply disturbed woman were lifted by the supreme court. Had her lawyers managed to prolong the legal process even a few days, she would have seen her sentence commuted to life by President Joe Biden who has pledged to end the federal death penalty.

Her death, by lethal injection in the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, is the 11th execution since the Trump administration resumed use of federal capital punishment in July after a 17-year hiatus.

In a truly gruesome murder in 2004, Montgomery had strangled an eight-month-pregnant woman, Bobbie Jo Stinnett, and then cut her foetus from her body with a kitchen knife to claim the child as her own. The baby girl lived and turned 16 last month on the anniversary of her mother’s death.

Montgomery was sentenced to death in 2007 and since then her lawyers have fought for leniency claiming that she was brain damaged at birth, subjected to “sexual torture”, including gang rapes, as a child, physically and sexually abused by her father, and trafficked by her mother.

As late as Monday a stay had been granted to allow a competency hearing on claims of mental illness, neurological impairment and complex trauma, and two other stays had been granted in other courts. 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.

Two more federal inmates are scheduled for execution this week, including a man whose lawyers say is clearly intellectualy disabled and has spent the past 27 years on death row. The supreme court has ruled it is illegal to execute intellectually disabled people but may not allow his lawyers the chance to prove that.

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