Death Penalty

ABA asks Trump for delays in 3 executions, including case in which the lawyers have COVID-19

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The ABA has asked President Donald Trump to delay three federal executions amid “a startling surge” in cases of COVID-19, including a case in which the lawyers are sickened by the virus.

ABA President Patricia Lee Refo expressed “urgent concern” in a Nov. 12 letter to Trump, according to an ABA press release. The pandemic, she said, is affecting “due process, lawyers’ ability to advocate zealously for their clients, and lawyers’ individual health and safety.”

The two lead lawyers for death-row inmate Lisa Montgomery have COVID-19 and they are unable to work on the case.

Without Trump’s intervention, Montgomery will proceed to execution on Dec. 8 without the filing of a clemency petition, Refo’s letter says.

Montgomery, of Melvern, Kansas, was convicted in 2007 for strangling a woman and cutting an unborn baby from her womb, according to coverage by The baby lived and was reunited with her father, according to News-Press Now.

Montgomery’s lead lawyers, Kelley Henry and Amy Harwell, said in a court brief that they visited Montgomery three times after her execution date was set, and her mental health was deteriorating.

Before that, the lawyers were working remotely and abiding by public defender regulations preventing nonessential travel. To visit with their client, the lawyers had to travel on planes, stay in hotels and interact with dozens of people.

“Montgomery’s lawyers cannot represent her because they are seriously ill, through no fault of their own,” the lawyers’ brief says. “On the contrary, they are sick because [Attorney General William Barr] recklessly scheduled Mrs. Montgomery’s execution in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. But for Barr’s action, counsel would not have been stricken with the disease that is ravaging the country.”

The ABA is also seeking delays for the execution of Orlando Hall, whose lawyers have been unable to visit him, and Brandon Bernard, who was only 18 at the time of the crime and “has a compelling case for mercy.”

Bernard’s lawyers were able to submit a clemency petition by the statutory deadline, but lawyers for Hall haven’t been able to conduct the investigation necessary to prepare a current and complete clemency petition, the ABA letter said.

Hall faces a Nov. 19 execution date, while Bernard is schedule for execution on Dec. 10.

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