Lisa Montgomery, the only female inmate on federal death row in the United States, was executed in the early hours of Wednesday morning (US time).
The 52-year-old received a lethal injection and was pronounced dead at a federal prison complex in Terre Haute, Indiana. Her execution marks the first time since 1953 that the US federal government has put to death a female prisoner.
Montgomery was the eleventh prisoner to be executed by lethal injection during Donald Trump’s time in office. He resumed federal executions last July following a 17-year period that saw no federal executions take place. Trump is a supporter of capital punishment.
In 2004, Montgomery strangled to death a woman who was eight months pregnant, before cutting out and kidnapping her baby, who survived the ordeal.
Her legal team said as a child Montgomery was subjected to “unspeakable torture” and sexual abuse, including gang rapes that seriously exacerbated her severe mental issues. The lawyers had called for her to serve life in prison, rather than face execution, and also asked for Trump’s clemency last week.
“Lisa’s abuse doesn’t excuse her crime. But it does provide an explanation for how she came to commit that crime, a context for trying to understand what otherwise might seem incomprehensible,” an open letter to Trump said.
In a scathing statement following the execution of Montgomery, Kelly Henry, Montgomery’s primary lawyer, said the prisoner had lost touch with reality in the days before her execution.
“The craven bloodlust of a failed administration was on full display tonight. Everyone who participated in the execution of Lisa Montgomery should feel shame,” the statement said.
“No one disagrees that Mrs. Montgomery was the victim of unspeakable torture and sex trafficking. No one can credibly dispute Mrs. Montgomery’s longstanding debilitating mental disease…Our Constitution forbids the execution of a person who is unable to rationally understand their execution.
“The current administration knows this. And they killed her anyway.”
Henry said the execution should be seen as “the vicious, illegal and unnecessary use of authoritarian power.”
“Lisa was much more than the tragic crime she committed, a crime for which she felt deep remorse before she lost all touch with reality in the days before her execution.”
The US Supreme Court outlawed the death penalty at a state and federal level in 1972 but reversed the decision four years later.
Montgomery was one of three prisoners scheduled to be executed in the final week of the Trump administration. The other two have been postponed by a federal judge, to allow the prisoners to recover from COVID-19.