The disgraceful execution of Lisa Montgomery

Lisa Montgomery was executed in Indiana last Wednesday morning, becoming the first woman to die under the federal death penalty in nearly seven decades.

Her sentence was carried out after the Supreme Court lifted one stay and declined to grant another last-minute request for a delay from her attorneys. The court’s three liberals, Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, all said they would have granted the request for a stay.

Montgomery’s attorney, Kelley Henry, who had argued she is too mentally ill to understand her death sentence, criticized the Trump administration for pushing forward with her execution.

“Our Constitution forbids the execution of a person who is unable to rationally understand her execution,” Henry said in a statement. “The current administration knows this. And they killed her anyway. Violating the Constitution, federal law, its own regulations, and longstanding norms along the way.”

Montgomery’s lawyers had raced to federal appeals courts in the District of Columbia, Chicago and St. Louis in attempts to delay the execution because a pause of even a few days could have a significant effect on Montgomery’s fate.

The administration resumed federal executions last year for the first time since 2003 It has since carried out 10 federal executions, the most in a single year in the U.S. in decades.   President Joe Biden, on the other hand, opposes capital punishment  and has pledged to push to eliminate the federal death penalty. 

The executions of two other death-row inmates scheduled for later this week were temporarily delayed, after a federal judge in Washington on Tuesday said they should first be allowed to recover from covid-19 contracted in prison.

Montgomery, 52, was convicted in 2007 of a grotesque crime: strangling a Missouri woman who was eight months pregnant, and cutting the baby from her abdomen. The infant survived and was raised by her father.  This horrible crime was preceded by years of abuse and mental illness. Doctors who have examined Montgomery say she has bipolar disorder and brain damage; she has said that God speaks to her through connect-the-dot puzzles, according to court affidavits. Her mother abused her and her stepfather repeatedly raped her, her lawyers say.

But in papers filed with the Supreme Court, Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey B. Wall said Montgomery understands her crime and coming punishment, and that courts should not delay a death penalty that has been pending for years.

The Supreme Court set aside a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that would have delayed a hearing in Montgomery’s case until after the inauguration.  (Ann E. Marinow & Robert Barnes, Washington Post)

My comment: The Guardian in England ran a full article about Montgomery two weeks ago.  The above does not explain the full graphic horror of this woman’s life, from about five years old onwards.  My wife and I read it and were speechless.  Just about everyone she encountered her abused her, it seems.  She was mentally a total mess.

It might possibly be a blessing for Montgomery to finally be at peace.  Her life in a horror show was at an end.  All the same, executing a deranged woman such as this was a cruel and vicious thing to do, unsurprising given who encouraged/ordered it, but two wrongs don’t make a right.  The death penalty is uncivilized, un-Epicurean and a disgrace.  Montgomery should have been helped by a shrink in a mental hospital. Her life should not depend on the views of the President in any case.


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