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Good News for Only Woman on Death Row

Judge rules Lisa Montgomery's execution was set illegally, might get pushed to Biden administration
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 25, 2020 8:37 AM CST

(Newser) – A federal judge said the Justice Department unlawfully rescheduled the execution of the only woman on federal death row, potentially setting up the Trump administration to schedule the execution after president-elect Joe Biden takes office. US District Court Judge Randolph Moss also vacated an order from the director of the Bureau of Prisons that had set Lisa Montgomery’s execution date for Jan. 12. Montgomery had previously been scheduled to be put to death at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Ind., this month, but Moss delayed the execution after her attorneys contracted coronavirus visiting their client and asked to extend the time to file a clemency petition. Moss prohibited the Bureau of Prisons from carrying out Lisa Montgomery’s execution before the end of the year and officials rescheduled her execution date for Jan. 12. But Moss ruled on Wednesday that the agency was also prohibited from rescheduling the date while a stay was in place.

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“The Court, accordingly, concludes that the Director’s order setting a new execution date while the Court’s stay was in effect was ‘not in accordance with law,’” Moss wrote. A spokesperson for the Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Under the order, the Bureau of Prisons cannot reschedule Montgomery’s execution until at least Jan. 1. Generally, under Justice Department guidelines, a death-row inmate must be notified at least 20 days before the execution. Because of the judge’s order, if the Justice Department chooses to reschedule the date in January, it could mean that the execution would be scheduled after Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20. A Biden rep has told the AP the president-elect “opposes the death penalty now and in the future” and would work as president to end its use in office. But Biden’s camp has not said whether executions would be paused immediately once Biden takes office.

(Read more Lisa Montgomery stories.)

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