Lisa Montgomery Execution Stayed as Attorneys Appeal to Trump for 'Mercy'

The execution of the only woman on federal death row has been delayed, with a judge declaring that the Justice Department unlawfully rescheduled the execution for next month.

Lisa Montgomery, 52, had been scheduled to be executed on January 12 at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Montgomery was first scheduled to be put to death on December 8, but U.S. District Court Judge Randolph Moss put a stay on the execution after Montgomery's attorneys contracted coronavirus and requested more time to file a clemency petition.

U.S. District Court Judge Randolph Moss on Saturday vacated the order to schedule the execution for January 12, and prohibited the Bureau of Prisons from carrying out the sentence before the end of the year.

"The Court, accordingly, concludes that the Director's order setting a new execution date while the Court's stay was in effect was 'not in accordance with law,'" Moss wrote, according to the Associated Press.

Sandra Babcock, one of Montgomery's lawyers released a statement explaining: "The district court's decision requires the government to follow the law by not setting an execution date for Lisa Montgomery while a stay of execution is in place."

The Bureau of Prisons now cannot schedule Montgomery's execution until January 1 at the earliest. Justice Department guidelines say a death-row inmate must be notified at least 20 days before an execution.

Moss's order means Montgomery's execution may now be scheduled for after President-Elect Joe Biden—a critic of the death penalty who wants to abolish the punishment—takes office. It is not clear whether Biden plans to pause all federal executions as soon as he comes into power.

Babcock called on President Donald Trump to commute her client's sentence. "Given the severity of Mrs. Montgomery's mental illness, the sexual and physical torture she endured throughout her life, and the connection between her trauma and the facts of her crime, we appeal to President Trump to grant her mercy, and commute her sentence to life imprisonment," Babcock said.

Trump is pushing ahead with an end-of-term execution spree, having ended a 17-year pause on federal executions earlier this year. The administration has carried out 10 death sentences, two in December. Trump's government has killed more prisoners than any administration for more than 130 years.

Last year, former Attorney General Bill Barr said: "The Justice Department upholds the rule of law – and we owe it to the victims and their families to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system."

Montgomery was convicted of killing Bobbie Jo Stinnett, 23, in Skidmore, Missouri in December 2004. Montgomery strangled Stinnett—who was eight months pregnant—with a rope before cutting her baby from her womb. Montgomery then took the baby, which survived, and attempted to pass her off as her own daughter, prosecutors said.

Montgomery's legal team has said she suffers from serious mental illnesses and had been seriously abused in the past. If executed, she would be the first woman to be put to death by the federal government since 1953.

Montgomery's sister told Newsweek this month: "More than a dozen women have committed similar crimes around the country, and none, besides Lisa, are condemned to die."

"It's a very simple ask," Diane Mattingly said. "We're not asking for her to be released from jail. We're not asking for her to be pardoned, or anything like that. We're just asking that the death sentence be put down to life."

Terre Haute Indiana Lisa Montgomery execution delayed
A guard tower sits along a security fence at the Federal Correctional Complex on July 13, in Terre Haute, Indiana. Scott Olson/Getty Images/Getty