A federal judge has blocked an execution scheduled for January 12 in connection with Lisa Montgomery, the only female currently on federal death row.
The Topeka Capitol-Journal reports that Judge Patrick Hanlon of the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Indiana said that an evidentiary hearing is needed to decide if Montgomery is mentally competent to face execution.
“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.
In an emailed statement to CrimeOnline, Kelley Henry, an attorney for Lisa Montgomery, wrote that the court made the correct decision.
“The Court was right to put a stop to Lisa Montgomery’s execution. As the court found, Mrs. Montgomery ‘made a strong showing’ of her current incompetence to be executed. 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,” Henry said.
“The Eighth Amendment prohibits the execution of people like Mrs. Montgomery who, due to their severe mental illness or brain damage, do not understand the basis for their executions. Mrs. Montgomery is mentally deteriorating and we are seeking an opportunity to prove her incompetence.”
As CrimeOnline previously reported, Montgomery was sentenced to die for the 2004 murder of pregnant 23-year-old Bobbie Jo Stinnett, whose baby Montgomery cut out of her with a carving knife, at Stinnett’s home in Skidmore, Missouri.
Montgomery, who was faking her own pregnancy, met Stinnett online while feigning interest in purchasing a dog. The two women arranged to meet on December 16, 2004, at Stinnett’s home in regards to buying a rat terrier.
Investigators believe that once Montgomery was inside the home, she cut Stinnett’s baby from her womb and strangled Stinnett with a rope.
Prosecutors previously stressed that they believe that Stinnett was conscious and fighting to defend herself while Montgomery used a kitchen knife to cut the baby out of Stinnett’s stomach, according to a report by the Daily Mail.
Stinnett’s own mother found her bleeding in her living room hours after the attack and contacted 911.
“She is laying on the floor with blood everywhere,” mother Becky Harper told a 911 dispatcher. “She was pregnant. … It’s like her guts have exploded or something.”
The baby, a girl, survived but Montgomery tried to pretend she was hers.
Police arrested Montgomery the following day at her home in Melvern, Kansas. They found Stinnett’s baby inside Montgomery’s home, with Montgomery holding the baby in her arms while watching the news about the missing baby flash across a television screen.
The baby, now a 16-year-old old, was returned to her father.
During the trial, prosecutors presented evidence that Montgomery devised a story of how she had gone into labor while on a shopping trip, even though she had undergone tubal ligation in 1990.
Nodaway County Sheriff Randy Strong, who worked the case since the beginning, said that the brutal murder and kidnapping had been “meticulously planned,” News-Press Now reports.
Montgomery’s lawyers, however, say that previous childhood sexual abuse and trauma are partly to blame for the incident.
According to ACLU, Montgomery’s issues started at birth, when she was born with permanent brain damage due to her mother’s excessive alcohol drinking during pregnancy.
The ACLU argued that Montgomery was tortured and abused as a child. She was often made to take cold showers and beaten with numerous items. Her mother allegedly taped her mouth shut so Montgomery couldn’t talk.
Montgomery was later raped, according to ACLU, and warned not to say anything unless she wanted it to happen to her younger sister. At age 15, Montgomery was forced into sex trafficking by her mother.
Montgomery began mentally disassociating to help her survive. When her mother remarried while Montgomery was in high school, the man allegedly beat and raped Montgomery.
ACLU also contended that Montgomery’s current prison is “re-torturing” her as she awaits her death sentence. The prison is accused of forcing Montgomery to take cold showers, denying her undergarments, talking cruelly to her, and leaving lights on 24/7.
The government said that Montgomery is “not entitled to micromanage the conditions of her confinement for her own comfort and convenience.”
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[Feature Photo: Lisa Montgomery & Bobbie Jo Stinnett/Police Handout; Handout]