San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition
Court clears woman’s execution
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — The U. S. Supreme Court cleared the way for the Justice Department to carry out the first execution of a female deathrow inmate in almost seven decades following a flurry of legal rulings.
The high court handed down its decision just after midnight onWednesday, allowing the federal Bureau of Prisons to proceed with the execution of Lisa Montgomery.
Montgomery was convicted of killing 23yearold Bobbie Jo Stinnett in the northwest Missouri town of Skidmore in 2004. She used a rope to strangle Stinnett, who was eight months pregnant, and then cut the baby girl from the womb with a kitchen knife. Montgomery took the child with her and attempted to pass the girl off as her own.
Her execution comes as another court halted two other executions set for later this week because the inmates tested positive for COVID19. The three executions were to be the last before Presidentelect Joe Biden, an opponent of the federal death penalty, is swornin next week. Now it’s unclear how many additional executions there will be under President Donald Trump, who resumed federal executions in July after a 17year pause. Ten federal inmates have since been put to death.
Montgomery’s lawyers have long argued she is mentally ill and can’t comprehend she would be put to death. Several courts had issued injunctions, but they were all later lifted by appeals courts or the Supreme Court.
Separately, a federal judge for the U. S. District of Columbia halted the scheduled executions later this week of Corey Johnson and Dustin Higgs in a ruling Tuesday. Johnson,
convicted of killing seven people related to his drug trafficking in Virginia, and Higgs, convicted of ordering the murders of three women in Maryland, both tested positive for COVID19 last month.
Delays of any of this week’s scheduled executions beyond Biden’s inauguration next Tuesday would likely mean they will not happen anytime soon, or ever, since a Biden administration is expected to oppose carrying out federal death sentences. One of Montgomery’s lawyers, Kelley Henry, told The Associated Press Tuesday morning that her client arrived at the Terre Haute facility late Monday night from a Texas prison and that, because there are no facilities for female inmates, she was being kept in a cell in the execution chamber building itself.