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U.S. executes first female inmate since 1953

Lisa Montgomery died Wednesday by lethal injection

Updated: January 13, 2021 - 9:19am

Lisa Montgomery died Wednesday by lethal injection for the crime of strangling a 23-year-old expectant mother in Missouri and cutting the child from her womb in 2004.

The inmate, 52, was pronounced dead at 1:31 a.m. at the federal prison complex in Terre Haute, Indiana. 

On Tuesday, an appeals court granted Montgomery a stay of execution, shortly after a separate appeals court lifted an Indiana judge's ruling finding that Montgomery was likely mentally ill and unable to comprehend that she would be killed by the state. Both appeals were lifted, allowing the execution of the only female prisoner on federal death row to move forward.

U.S. District Judge James Patrick Hanlon, who halted the execution before the stay was overturned, had cited experts from the defense who testified that Montgomery suffered from a variety of mental illnesses including depression, borderline personality disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Montgomery also experienced delusions and hallucinations. She believed God spoke to her through connect-the-dot puzzles, said the judge. Additionally, at the time of the murder, Montgomery was suffering from a condition called pseudocyesis, in which a woman's false belief that she is pregnant triggers hormonal and physical changes to take place as though she actually were pregnant.  

"The craven bloodlust of a failed administration was on full display tonight. Everyone who participated in the execution of Lisa Montgomery should feel shame," said Montgomery's attorney Kelley Henry in a statement, shortly after her client's death. "The government stopped at nothing in its zeal to kill this damaged and delusional woman. Lisa Montgomery’s execution was far from justice."

Montgomery became the 11th individual to die by lethal injection at the complex in Indiana since July, when President Trump ordered the resumption of federal executions. Joe Biden, who will be sworn in next week, is expected to cease federal executions. 

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