A judge’s ruling delaying the first federal execution of a US woman in nearly seven decades may buy her enough time to run out the clock on Donald Trump’s presidency, enabling President-elect Joe Biden to take her off death row.
The execution of Lisa Montgomery – who was convicted in 2007 of strangling a pregnant woman to death and cutting the baby out of the womb to pass it off as her own – had been pushed back from December 8 after her lawyers were infected with coronavirus. The Bureau of Prisons pushed back the execution to January 12, but US District Court Judge Randolph Moss ruled on Thursday that the rescheduling was unlawful because his stay order was still in place.
The order bars federal officials from rescheduling the execution until at least January 1 and, given that US Department of Justice guidelines require inmates to be notified of their execution dates at least 20 days in advance, the new date would likely come after Biden is scheduled to take office at noon on January 20. That means Biden, who has pledged to abolish the death penalty, would be able to block Montgomery from being executed.
“It’s a Christmas miracle,” said journalist Rachel Louise Snyder, who last week wrote a New York Times opinion piece about Montgomery’s case. Another journalist who wrote about Montgomery, Huffington Post’s Melissa Jeltsen, said the delay ruling was “joyful news on this Christmas Day.”
Joyful news on this Christmas day: Lisa Montgomery’s execution date has been put on hold.
Read my story on her life here: https://t.co/fw567vtdrz
— Melissa Jeltsen (@quasimado) December 25, 2020
Snyder, Jeltsen and other advocates for Montgomery, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, have pointed to her mental illness and the sexual and physical abuse she had suffered as a child and young woman as reasons the death penalty never should have been ordered in her case.
“No one should be executed due to poor lawyering,” the ACLU said. “No one should be executed after a lifetime of experiencing gender-based violence. No one should be executed, period.”
No one should be executed due to poor lawyering.
No one should be executed after a lifetime of experiencing gender-based violence.
No one should be executed. Period.
— ACLU (@ACLU) December 18, 2020
Trump disagreed. He resumed federal executions in July, the first in 17 years, and Montgomery would have been the first female executed by the feds in 67 years. Ten executions have been carried out since July, and before Thursday’s order by Moss, three more were slated to be carried out before Biden took office.