A federal judge in Indiana has granted a stay of execution on mental health grounds to so-called “womb raider” Lisa Montgomery, the only woman on federal death row in the US, according to a report.
In granting the stay late Monday, Judge Patrick Hanlon cited the need to determine Montgomery’s mental competence to face execution, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported.
Montgomery faced execution Tuesday at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana, just eight days before President-elect Joe Biden, an opponent of the federal death penalty, takes office.
She would have been the first federally executed woman in the US since 1953.
Montgomery was convicted in 2007 of strangling Bobbie Jo Stinnett in Missouri, and then cutting her unborn baby from her womb three years earlier.
She had originally been scheduled to die by lethal injection on Dec. 8, but in November a federal judge temporarily blocked her execution after her lawyers contracted COVID-19 while visiting her in a federal lockup.
“As discussed elsewhere in this order, Ms. Montgomery has been diagnosed with physical brain impairments and multiple mental illnesses, and three experts are of the opinion that, based on conduct and symptoms reported to them by counsel, Ms. Montgomery’s perception of reality is currently distorted and impaired,” Hanlon wrote Monday, according to the Topeka paper.
Montgomery’s lawyer Kelley Henry praised the judge’s order, as her legal team has long argued that her background — filled with abuse and mental illness — made her unfit for execution and may have played a role in the 2004 murder.
She drove about 170 miles from her Melvern, Kansas, farmhouse to the northwest Missouri town of Skidmore under the guise of adopting a rat terrier puppy from Stinnett, a 23-year-old dog breeder.
Montgomery strangled Stinnett with a rope before performing a crude cesarean and fleeing with the baby.
She was arrested the next day after showing off the premature infant, Victoria Jo, who is now 16 and hasn’t spoken publicly about the tragedy.
“As the court found, Mrs. Montgomery ‘made a strong showing’ of her current incompetence to be executed,” Henry said in a statement. “Mrs. Montgomery has brain damage and severe mental illness that was exacerbated by the lifetime of sexual torture she suffered at the hands of caretakers.”
With Post wires
Judge blocks execution of Lisa Montgomery, the only woman on federal death row The British Journal Editors and Wire Services/ New York Post.