Lisa Montgomery, a federal inmate and the only woman on the federal government’s death row, is scheduled to be executed via lethal injection by the U.S. government on December 8th, 2020. According to the Department of Justice’s Office of Public Affairs, Montgomery was convicted of “fatally strangling a pregnant woman, Bobbie Jo Stinnett, cutting open her body, and kidnapping the baby.” The heinous crime was described as a “premediated murder-kidnap scheme” in which Montgomery drove from her home in Kansas to Stinnett’s home in Missouri under the pretense of purchasing a puppy. After murdering Stinnett, Montgomery tried to pass the baby off as her own, but subsequently confessed to both the murder and the kidnapping. In 2007, Montgomery was found guilty of federally kidnapping resulting in death. The jury unanimously recommended a death sentence, which was later imposed by the court. Montgomery’s attempts at appealing her conviction and sentence were unsuccessful, both her conviction and sentence were affirmed.
The Washington Post reported that Montgomery’s upcoming execution illustrates the “rare instance of a woman being put to death in the United States.” According to the Death Penalty Information Center, “women are rarely sentenced to death in the United States and executions of women are even rarer.” In fact, women constitute less than 2% of the total death row population (as of 2019) and only 16 women have been executed since a Supreme Court case reinstated the death penalty in 1976. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons records, the last woman to be executed by the federal government was Bonnie Brown Heady. Heady and her co-defendant were both sentenced to death for kidnapping and murder. They were executed via the gas chamber at the Missouri State Penitentiary on December 18th, 1953.
Montgomery, who suffers from complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and psychosis due to childhood abuse, which included sex trafficking, is one of two federal inmates who are scheduled to be executed in December. The other federal inmate, Brandon Bernard, will be executed via lethal injection on December 10, 2020. Bernard’s co-defendant, Christopher Andre Vialva, was executed on September 24th. Montgomery and Bernard’s executions will be the 8th and 9th executions that take place this year under the Trump administration, who resumed federal executions in July after a 17-year hiatus. Montgomery’s attorney, assistant public federal defender Kelley Henry, stated that she “was represented at trial by an incompetent lawyer who has the dubious distinction of a having more clients on federal death row than any other attorney” and that her “severe mental illness and the devastating impacts of her childhood trauma make executing her a profound injustice.”
Instructors, click on the link below to download this week’s lecture for use in your classroom.
The deck contains a writing prompt, a debate question, as well as other assessment questions.
- Writing: What are some of the arguments in favor and against the use of capital punishment?
- Debate: According to the Death Penalty Information Center, there is no categorical ban on the execution of people with mental illness. Although legislatures have considered bills creating an exclusion, none of been enacted. Do you think that Lisa Montgomery should be granted a stay of execution and her case appealed due to her attorneys claims that she is mentally ill?
- Poll: The death penalty is considered cruel and unusual punishment and should be abolished at both the state and federal level. (Agree or Disagree).
- Short Answer: Do you think that capital punishment acts as a deterrent for crime? Why or why not?
Cover Image: © iStockphoto.com/davidhills