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Supreme Court Orders Move Woman Closer to Execution (4)

Jan. 12, 2021, 1:01 PM; Updated: Jan. 13, 2021, 1:32 AM

The Supreme Court has twice ruled against a woman scheduled for federal execution Tuesday, bringing her closer to lethal injection with a dwindling number of avenues for appeal pending before the justices.

The Supreme Court rulings come one day after an Indiana federal judge granted temporary relief on grounds of Lisa Montgomery’s mental incompetency, and the full Washington federal appeals court did the same for her claim that the government set her execution date prematurely. The Washington court reversed a three-judge panel that ruled against Montgomery hours earlier.

The justices reversed the Washington win over dissent from the three Democratic appointees, making it more likely the Trump administration will be able to carry out the first federal execution of a woman since 1953. It was the second time Tuesday that the justices ruled against her.

She has at least one more claim pending at the high court, related to her mental competency, before the Justice Department can execute her at the federal death chamber in Terre Haute, Ind.

Montgomery was sentenced to death for murdering Bobbie Jo Stinnett. She cut Stinnett’s baby from her womb and strangled Stinnett to death. In seeking clemency, Montgomery’s legal team has pointed to her history as a victim of gang rape, incest, and child sex trafficking, and her severe mental illness.

“Multiple members of the murdered woman’s family are currently in Indiana to witness the execution,” the Justice Department said in its application to the justices, filed Tuesday, seeking to vacate the Washington stay.

If her lethal injection goes forward, Montgomery will be the 11th person executed federally since the Trump administration resumed them in July after a 17-year break. Executions carried out during the lame-duck period have been the first of their kind since the late 19th century.

Two other federal executions are scheduled for this week, before the Jan. 20 presidential inauguration of Joe Biden, who ran on an anti-death penalty platform. Corey Johnson is scheduled for Jan. 14 and Dustin Higgs for Jan. 15.

Multiple legal challenges are pending for both men that will also likely be decided at the high court this week. That includes the claim that their Covid-19 diagnoses should bar their executions on cruel and unusual punishment grounds. A Washington trial judge on Tuesday blocked their executions until March 16 so that they can recover from the virus.

(Updates with latest Supreme Court activity.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Jordan S. Rubin in Washington at jrubin@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Seth Stern at sstern@bloomberglaw.com; John Crawley at sstern@bloomberglaw.com

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