Montgomery can only save Trump’s grace

If US President Trump does not show mercy, Lisa Montgomery only has a few hours to live. Her lawyer probably negligently accepted the death sentence against the now 52-year-old. Her status as a federal prisoner is now her downfall.

In mid-October, Lisa Montgomery learned that her execution date had been set. The US Department of Justice had previously ruled that the woman’s death penalty, as well as twelve other death row inmates, should be carried out in federal prisons. Previously, executions by federal justice had been suspended for 17 years.

The now 52-year-old was convicted for the murder of the pregnant Bobbie Jo Stinnet, who cut the baby out of the belly. The first-mentioned December 8 passed without lethal injection at Montgomery. The reason for this was the corona pandemic and the fact that Montgomery’s lawyers contracted the corona virus while visiting prison. From her point of view, the defense of her client was no longer guaranteed.

But then a court ruled that this fact had no further suspensive effect and set a new date for the execution: January 12th. Since then, a team of lawyers have been trying to prevent Montgomery from carrying out the death penalty at the last minute. The lawyers recently turned to the outgoing US President Donald Trump with a pardon. They asked him to commute Montgomery’s death sentence to life imprisonment with no appeal. However, hardly anyone expects Trump to do that.

Because while in US states like Texas or Tennessee, which are still implementing the death penalty, executions have been suspended or postponed due to corona, the picture is different with the federal justice system. Executions have been carried out here since July 2020, even more than ever. If all death row inmates die on set dates by January 20, the federal government will have executed more people in the past six months than any other US government. The newly elected US President Joe Biden is considered an opponent of the death penalty. For Montgomery, however, a possible moratorium could come too late.

Lawyer failed completely

The main argument that Montgomery’s attorney Kelley Henry uses in an interview with the US broadcaster CBS against the execution of the death penalty in this case is that her client is mentally ill and therefore “not enforceable”. Henry refers to the innumerable medical and psychiatric reports that were made about Montgomery after the conviction. Had these papers been presented at the trial in which the woman was sentenced to death, the death sentence may never have been given. However, the attorney who represented her in these proceedings had never been involved in any felony before. Montgomery’s legal team today is not only of the opinion that the woman has not been adequately defended.

Lawyer Fred Duchardt may even harm his client by first citing an extremely rare mental illness from which Montgomery allegedly suffered. After that, the jury’s trust was destroyed, although it later turned out that she was and is in fact seriously mentally ill. Various bipolar disorders, a post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, psychoses, dissociations and memory loss have now been diagnosed. The cause of these diseases is now considered to be a childhood and youth that was characterized by sexual abuse and torture to an extent that one of the experts equated with the experiences of child soldiers, Vietnam or Korean war veterans.

Testimony from social workers, paediatricians and relatives suggests the image of a sexually abused, tortured and humiliated child who was completely broken by his mother and stepfather. If, as a child, she had “got the help she needed, the act would not have happened,” says Henry.

“Getting worse and worse”

Montgomery’s half-sister Diane Mattingly made a similar statement to the BBC. The half-sisters lived together until Mattingly was eight and Montgomery was four. In the family, physical, psychological and sexual abuse by Montgomery’s mother and her stepfather was everyday life. She herself was eventually taken into custody. “One sister was brought to a loving home, was cared for and had time to heal,” Mattingly says of herself. “The other sister stayed in that situation and it got worse and worse. In the end, she was broken.”

Many of Montgomery’s symptoms have worsened since the execution was scheduled. She is the only woman on death row in Terre Haute Federal Prison, Indiana. The male death row inmates are in contact with each other, Montgomery is alone. She is allowed to go into a cordoned-off outdoor area alone for a few minutes every day. She is allowed to shower three times a week, under supervision.

On her last visit in November, her lawyers found her wearing a type of suicide gown designed to prevent a strangulation tool from being made. Her normal clothes, underwear, and all personal items were taken from her. Since then, the lawyers have only been able to phone their client. Even though Henry is still struggling with the consequences of her Covid 19 illness, she is determined to travel to Indiana for the execution date. The corona pandemic made her work even more difficult; her infection made her feel like she had lost valuable time. Montgomery’s half-sister and two of her four children also want to attend the execution.

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