The pandemic has devastated American prisons, but it could save a woman on death row.

A judge’s decision to delay the execution of the only woman on federal death row could push the new date into the early days of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s administration, who has vowed to work to end to the federal death penalty.

The woman, Lisa Montgomery, was due to be executed on December 8, but that date was delayed after two of her lawyers tested positive for the coronavirus shortly after going to a federal prison in Texas to visit her in November.

If Ms Montgomery’s life were spared due to delays due to the infection of her lawyers, it would be a rare reprieve for a prisoner of a virus that has swept through prisons, infecting inmates crammed into shared spaces.

The Department of Justice had postponed his execution until January 12, but Judge Randolph D. Moss of the District Court for the District of Columbia on Thursday ruled that the January execution date had been illegally postponed due to an order. of stay rendered because of his lawyers. the diseases were still in effect.

Mrs. Montgomery, of Melvern, Kan., Was condemned in 2008 for killing a pregnant woman and cutting a baby from her abdomen. She tried to pass off the baby as her own before admitting the crime.

Lawyers for Ms Montgomery said she suffered from a serious mental illness, inherited from both parents and made worse by childhood abuse, including sex trafficking by her mother and gang rape by men.

The stay of Ms. Montgomery’s case prevented the government from executing her before December 31. How long the government will wait to execute it after this point remains unclear. Federal rules state that execution notices must be given to inmates at least 20 days in advance, but when the postponed date is less than 20 days from the initial date, the inmate should only be notified “as soon as possible” .

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Marie Fazio and Hailey Fuchs contributed reporting.

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