KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The U.S. Supreme Court has denied multiple attempts to delay the execution for Lisa Montgomery, clearing the way for the federal government to execute the Kansas woman.
Multiple judges granted Montgomery a stay of execution; the first came late Monday, less than 24 hours before she was originally scheduled to be put to death.
But on Tuesday, an appeals court rejected one, and the Supreme Court rejected two others. The last, in the 8th Circuit Court, was rejected around 11 p.m. Tuesday.
Montgomery’s execution by lethal injection is now expected to take place overnight at the federal prison complex in Terre Haute, Indiana. She will be the first woman put to death by the federal government in more than 60 years.
The 52-year-old was convicted for killing 23-year-old Bobbie Jo Stinnett in the northwest Missouri town of Skidmore in 2004.
She used a rope to strangle Stinnett, who was eight months pregnant, and then cut the baby girl from the womb with a kitchen knife. Montgomery took the child with her and attempted to pass the girl off as her own. She was taken into custody the next day.
That baby who Montgomery cut from Stinnett’s womb and detectives rescued just turned 16. She has never spoken publicly, and the family has asked for privacy.
Details of the crime at times left jurors in tears during her trial.
Montgomery’s legal team says she suffered “sexual torture,” including gang rapes, as a child, permanently scarring her emotionally and exacerbating mental-health issues that ran in her family.
But at trial, prosecutors accused her of faking her mental illness, arguing that the murder of Stinnett was premeditated and included meticulous planning, including online research on how to perform a C-section.
Her attorney Kelley Henry balked at that idea, citing extensive testing and brain scans that supported the diagnosis of mental illness.
Henry said the core of the legal arguments is not whether she knew the killing was wrong in 2004 but whether she fully grasps why she’s slated to be executed now.
“I don’t believe she has any rational comprehension of what’s going on at all,” Henry told The Associated Press.
And even hours before her scheduled execution, Montgomery’s attorneys continuously argued that she isn’t mentally competent and, therefore, should not be put to death. Women’s groups and anti-death penalty organizations have been petitioning for months to put a stop to the execution.
Still, unless another court steps in at the last second to grant another stay, the federal government will execute Montgomery late Tuesday night or early Wednesday.
The last woman executed by the federal government was Bonnie Brown Heady on Dec. 18, 1953, for the kidnapping and murder of a 6-year-old boy in Missouri.
The last woman executed by a state was Kelly Gissendaner, 47, on Sept. 30, 2015, in Georgia. She was convicted of murder in the 1997 slaying of her husband after she conspired with her lover, who stabbed Douglas Gissendaner to death.
FOX4 will have continuing coverage of Lisa Montgomery’s case online and on air Tuesday night and Wednesday.