More than 1,000 proponents – including current and former prosecutors, anti-trafficking organizations and mental health groups – have urged President Donald Trump to spare the life of the only woman on nationwide death row.
Lisa Montgomery, who was convicted of killing a pregnant woman and cutting the baby out of her womb, is scheduled to die by lethal injection on December 8 at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Montgomery, 52, was convicted of a federal kidnapping in 2007 that resulted in death.
In December 2004, she visited the home of Bobbie Jo Stinnett in Missouri, who was eight months pregnant, under the pretext of buying a puppy. There she strangled Stinnett and cut the baby out of her womb before trying to pass the newborn off as her own.
She later confessed to the crime. The Justice Department said she had exhausted all offers to appeal her conviction and sentence when it announced her execution date.
But in a series of letters, a broad coalition of lawyers has asked Trump to commute Montgomery’s sentence to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
They say Montgomery should not be sentenced to death because she has a serious mental illness, suffered sexual abuse as a child and was a victim of human trafficking as a teenager.
“Lisa’s experiences as a victim of terrible sexual violence, physical abuse and child trafficking do not excuse her crime,” a group of 41 current and former prosecutors wrote in one of the letters provided to Washington Newsday.
“But their story provides us with an important explanation that would influence any conviction recommendation that we as prosecutors have made.
They said Montgomery’s story was “not a ‘malpractice excuse,’ as the jury was told at their trial,” but rather evidence that “is crucial to determining the appropriate punishment for a serious crime.
Stanley Garnett and Harry Zimmerman, two former district attorneys who have prosecuted cases almost identical to Montgomery’s, added in another letter: “Montgomery’s story is not an ‘abuse excuse’ as told to the jury at her trial: “We know firsthand that these crimes are inevitably the result of serious mental illness.
They added: “Women who commit such crimes are likely to have become victims themselves. These are important factors that make death sentences inappropriate”.
They are joined by hundreds of organizations working for women, children and people with mental illness.
A letter from 800 organizations, survivors and individuals working to combat violence against women stated that Montgomery had “suffered a lifetime of terrible abuse” and “had been consistently abandoned by people and systems that should have helped her.
The letter states that Montgomery was first sexually abused by her stepfather, who repeatedly raped her and allowed friends to rape her in groups. As a teenager she was abducted by her mother to men.
As a result of the repeated rapes she suffered from these men, “Montgomery developed a dissociative disorder and complex post-traumatic stress disorder,” the letter says.
He adds that although Montgomery told people about the abuse, no one intervened.
U.S. Schedule for execution of woman who killed pregnant woman, baby cut out
In a letter from the leaders of three groups working to help people with serious mental illness, Montgomery was said to have been born with brain damage due to her mother’s alcohol abuse during pregnancy and also “inherited a genetic predisposition to serious mental illness from both sides of her family.
In addition, the “relentless physical, psychological and sexual abuse” that Montgomery suffered throughout her childhood “severed her connection to reality.
The letter notes that several experts have concluded that Montgomery’s crime was the result of her mental illness and brain injuries. “Even today, her connection to reality is fragile and is only maintained by a complex regime of psychotropic drugs that she never received before her imprisonment,” the letter said.
“President Trump, we know that the decision to commute a death sentence