Lawyer urges clemency for federal death row inmate

Death penalty Credit California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Wikipedia CC 20 CNA California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation via Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0).

A woman convicted of murdering a woman and stealing her unborn child should be granted clemency ahead of her scheduled execution on Jan. 12, her lawyer told CNA.

Lisa Montgomery was sentenced to death in 2007 for the Dec. 16, 2004 murder of Bobbie Jo Stinnett, a 23-year-old woman who was eight months pregnant. Montgomery, who told Stinnett her name was "Darlene Fischer," claimed to be pregnant as well, and the two communicated online prior to meeting at Stinnett's home in Skidmore, Missouri.

Montgomery strangled Stinnett, and then cut her stomach to deliver the child, a girl, via a rudimentary cesarean section. The newborn baby girl was discovered, alive, one day later when Montgomery was arrested in Kansas. Montgomery reportedly told her husband that the baby was hers.

The federal government tried the case in part as it involved a kidnapping over state lines.

"We've asked President Trump to commute Mrs. Montgomery's sentence from death to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole ... for several reasons," Kelley Henry, lead counsel on the case, said to CNA in a phone interview Jan. 6.

"First, she is a person who suffers from serious mental illness as well as brain damage, and a lifetime of physical and sexual torture at the hands of her caregivers, and the men that her mother trafficked her to, for years," said Henry.

Henry noted that despite the documentation of numerous similar crimes in the United States, Montgomery is the only person to be sentenced to death on either the federal or state levels.

"The prosecution normally understands that people who commit this particular sort of crime are individuals with severe mental illness and trauma history," Henry explained.

"Mrs. Montgomery's trauma history is the most severe of any case I've ever seen in 30 years of practice."

Unlike others on death row, Montgomery "has expressed deep and severe remorse from the moment of her arrest," said Henry.

Henry told CNA that those who wish to see Montgomery's sentence commuted to life in prison without the possibility of parole to visit the website, sign the petition, and write "letters and emails" to the president and other leaders. 

"These executions are, after all, carried out in the names of the citizens of the United States, and they should make it be known to the president that they would support mercy in this case," said Henry, "which would be life in prison without the possibility of parole."

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