Death Penalty

Federal appeals court reinstates execution date for only woman on death row

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The execution date for the only woman on federal death row has been reinstated by a three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

In its Jan. 1 order, the panel held that the district court erred when it vacated the execution date for Lisa Montgomery, a Kansas woman convicted of strangling a pregnant woman and cutting the unborn baby from her womb. The baby survived.

CNN and NPR have coverage.

Montgomery was originally scheduled to be executed Dec. 8, but it was postponed when two of her lawyers contracted COVID-19 after visiting her in prison and needed more time to work on her case.

After her execution was rescheduled for Jan. 12, the district court ruled that it should be delayed because the Federal Bureau of Prisons was unable to set a new date while the case was on hold. However, in the Friday order, the federal appeals court held that the “governing regulation” did not prohibit the director from rescheduling Montgomery’s execution because her original execution date had not passed.

Meaghan VerGow, one of Montgomery’s attorneys, said in a statement provided to CNN that she will file a petition asking the judges to reconsider the decision.

“The federal government must be required to follow the law in setting any execution date, as the district court correctly held … Given everything we know about Lisa Montgomery’s mental illness, her lifetime of horrific torture and trauma, and the many people in positions of authority who could have intervened to save her but never did, there can be no principled reason to carry out her execution,” said VerGow, who has also asked President Donald Trump to commute Montgomery’s sentence to life without the possibility of parole.

In a Nov. 12 letter, ABA President Patricia Lee Refo asked Trump to delay three federal executions, including Montgomery’s, amid “a startling surge” in cases of COVID-19. She expressed “urgent concern” and told Trump that the pandemic is affecting “due process, lawyers’ ability to advocate zealously for their clients, and lawyers’ individual health and safety.”

In his final months as president, Trump has overseen 10 federal executions, which is the most the United States has carried out in a single year in decades, CNN reports.

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