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Judge halts federal execution of woman who killed pregnant mother, cut out her baby

Her lawyers have contracted COVID-19.

Updated: November 21, 2020 - 10:18pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

A U.S. district judge has "briefly" stayed the execution of a notorious killer who murdered a pregnant mother and then cut her baby out of her body, temporarily halting what is anticipated to be the first federal execution of a woman in nearly seven decades.

Lisa Montgomery in 2004 strangled Skidmore, Mo. resident Bobbie Jo Stinnett to death, then cut open Stinnett's body and removed her baby before fleeing with it. 

The killer was eventually apprehended and the baby safely returned to its father. Montgomery was subsequently sentenced to death; the federal government in October set her date of execution for Dec. 8 of this year.

Yet a district court this week issued a temporary stay on Montgomery's execution, responding to a petition in which Montgomery argued that her lawyers are presently unable to provide proper counsel due to their reportedly having contracted severe cases of COVID-19.

The stay will hold "briefly," U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss said in his decision.

Moss in the ruling also ordered that Montgomery's lawyers should appoint "qualified, additional counsel" to assist in the case if they believe they will be unable to file a clemency petition by Christmas.

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