Judge halts Kan. woman's execution after lawyers contract virus

Elias Hubbard
November 22, 2020

U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss said that though his order will temporarily stay the execution, now slated for December 8, it will "not enjoin any government official, including the President", from taking any adverse action on her request for a reprieve.

Her attorneys, Kelley Henry and Amy Harwell, were seeking to delay her execution with a clemency petition when they contracted the deadly virus after visiting her in a Texas prison facility. In court papers, they said each roundtrip visit involved two flights, hotel stays and interaction with airline and hotel staff, as well as prison employees.

"For present purposes, it is sufficient for the Court to stay Plaintiff's execution - briefly - to permit Harwell and Henry to recover from their illness and to have a short time to finish their work in supplementing Plaintiff's placeholder petition for a reprieve or commutation of sentence", Moss wrote in his opinion, though he further ordered that Harwell and Henry would have to say by December 24 whether or not they would be able to complete the petition without help.

Lisa Montgomery was set to be executed on December 8 in Terre Haute, Indiana.

If Montgomery is executed in December, she would be the ninth federal inmate to put to death since the Justice Department resumed executions in July after a almost 20-year hiatus. He also argued it was not reasonable to ask to pause the process so Montgomery could be represented by specific lawyers and said she has other attorneys working on her case.

A lawyer who has worked on her case told the AP that Montgomery's childhood trauma provided a compelling case for clemency.

Her lawyers had said that Montgomery has long suffered from severe mental illness and was the victim of sexual assault, including gang rape.

Another attorney could not be assigned to file one because Montgomery's mental status has deteriorated since the Justice Department scheduled her execution last month, Babcock argued.

"They are sick because Defendant Barr recklessly scheduled Mrs. Montgomery's execution in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic", said the federal lawsuit filed for Montgomery by Cornell Law School's International Human Rights Policy Advocacy Clinic.

Babcock hailed the ruling as 'a meaningful opportunity to prepare and present a clemency application after her attorneys recover from COVID'.

'She will now have the opportunity to present this evidence to the President with a request that he commute her sentence to life imprisonment'.

In the U.S. state of IN, a court has postponed the first execution IN 70 years of a woman who was sentenced to capital punishment at the federal level.

Montgomery was convicted of killing 23-year-old Bobbie Jo Stinnett in the northwest Missouri town of Skidmore in December 2004. When she arrived at the home, Montgomery used a rope to strangle Stinnett, who was eight months pregnant, but Stinnett was conscious and trying to defend herself as Montgomery used a kitchen knife to cut the baby girl from the womb, authorities said.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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