Lisa Montgomery: The First Woman To Be Executed in 67 Years by the Federal Government

On Jan. 12, 52-year-old Lisa Montgomery was executed by lethal injection in Indiana. She has been sitting on death row after being convicted 14 years ago. Before her execution, she was the only woman on federal death row.

For the past 17 years, all federal executions were paused until July 2020 under the Trump administration. Attorney General Barr ordered for the federal executions to resume. They were to resume with the execution of five men convicted of murdering children. Within the five months in 2020 that the executions have resumed, 10 people have been executed by lethal injection. This is the highest number of federal executions since 1896. Before the pause on the federal executions in 2003, only three people had been executed by the federal government since the reinstatement of it in 1988.

Although Montgomery is the first woman in decades to be executed by the federal government, that is not the case for the individual states. According to the NAACP, in January 2020, 16 women have been executed since the reinstatement of it in 1988. But a huge difference is this past year was the first time in US history where the federal government executed more people than the individual states.

Prison Room Photo by Daniel Radford fromUnsplash

According to the Department of Justice, in 2007, Montgomery was found guilty of kidnapping which resulted in death. The crime itself took place in December 2004 in Missouri. Montgomery went to the home of eight-month pregnant Bobbie Jo Stinnett under the ruse that she was there to adopt a puppy. Instead, she strangled the 23-year-old until she became unconscious, then, with a kitchen knife, removed the baby from Stinnett’s stomach. This caused Stinnett to regain consciousness, which resulted in Montgomery ultimately strangling her to death. Montgomery successfully removed the newborn and went on to pretend that the child was, in fact hers. Not too long after, she confessed. Thankfully the baby survived and is now 16; she is living with her father.

When the case was originally tried back in 2007, Montgomery’s attorneys alleged that at the time of the crime, she was suffering from a mental illness. The defense had three separate psychologists confirm that Montgomery suffered from a rare mental disorder where one believes they are pregnant called pseudocyesis. According to a study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, “Pseudocyesis is a condition in which the patient has all signs and symptoms of pregnancy except for the confirmation of the presence of a fetus.” The defense psychologists took it one step further to conclude that the reason Montgomery killed Stinnett and removed her baby was that during her delusional state, she believed Montgomery’s baby was hers. Regardless of this testimony, Montgomery was still convicted due partially to the testimony of Dr. Park Dietz. The renowned psychologist concluded that she knew she wasn’t pregnant due to forged sonograms and documents. Dr. Dietz testified that if she was truly delusional, she wouldn’t need to make proof; delusions don’t need that reinforcement.

Regardless of the conviction, Montgomery’s attorneys never stopped fighting. According to NBC News, her attorneys felt as if the jury didn’t get a clear picture of her mental illness and also the events in her life that ended with her in jail. The clemency petition filed detailed her mother’s alcoholism while she was pregnant with Montgomery and the later abuse she would face at the hands of her stepfather and many more. From the age of 11, Montgomery was allegedly raped and beaten by her stepfather, and later, her mother allowed men to rape her daughter for money or various “home repairs.” All attempts made by her attorneys ultimately failed, and she was pronounced dead at 1:31 a.m.

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