Her Lawyers Got COVID. Now an Execution Reprieve

Federal judge orders Lisa Montgomery not be put to death before 2021
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 20, 2020 7:00 AM CST
Feds Won't Execute a Woman in 2020 After All
This undated image shows Lisa Montgomery.   (Attorneys for Lisa Montgomery via AP)

Lisa Montgomery is getting a bit of a break. Montgomery was set to be executed on Dec. 8 in Terre Haute, Ind., which would make her the first woman put to death by the federal government in nearly seven decades. But two of her attorneys last week requested a delay in her execution. In a lawsuit, they stated that the surprise announcement by Attorney General Bill Barr that he'd scheduled the 52-year-old's execution for next month forced them to travel during the pandemic, which caused them both to contract COVID-19. Lawyers Amy Harwell and Kelley Henry say because they've both been bedridden with the virus, they need more time to prepare Montgomery's clemency application. On Thursday, a federal court granted their wish, with an order by US District Judge Randolph Moss mandating that Montgomery can't be executed before the end of 2020, reports NBC News.

"It is sufficient for the court to stay plaintiff's execution, briefly" so that the attorneys can recuperate so they can wrap up their clemency petition, Moss wrote in his order. Harwell and Henry are seeking to have the sentence for Montgomery—convicted of strangling a pregnant woman and taking her baby, who survived—commuted to life in prison. Moss noted, however, that the lawyers need to say by Christmas Eve whether or not they can complete said petition on their own; if not, they'll have to recruit other attorneys to help out or have the court do so for them, per the Tennessean. Montgomery's legal team has argued she has "severe mental illness" and other "compelling grounds" to have her sentence commuted. In court documents, the Justice Department notes that Harwell and Henry should have had the clemency petition already prepared and that another lawyer can take over, per NBC. (More Lisa Montgomery stories.)

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