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Judge delays first federal execution of woman in 70 years, potentially punting to after inauguration

Killing had earlier been delayed due to lawyers having contracted COVID-19

Updated: December 26, 2020 - 11:51am

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

The anticipated first federal execution of a woman in nearly seven decades was paused this week after a judge said U.S. officials did not follow the directions of an earlier ruling on the matter.

U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss had earlier temporarily stayed Lisa Montgomery’s execution due to her lawyers having contracted COVID-19. Officials in response rescheduled Montgomery’s execution date to Jan. 12. But Moss on Thursday said they were prohibited from scheduling a new date until at least Jan. 1.

Justice Department guidelines hold that, in most circumstances, prisoners must be notified of their pending execution “at least 20 days in advance” of its being carried out. That convention could punt Montgomery’s execution to after Inauguration Day, when Joe Biden is anticipated to be sworn in as president. Biden has expressed opposition to the death penalty in the past.

Montgomery was convicted in 2007 for murdering then-pregnant Bobbie Jo Stinnett in Skidmore, Missouri. Montgomery killed Stinnett, cut her open and kidnapped her baby. The baby was eventually returned, living, to Stinnett’s widower.