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Judge says Trump admin can't set execution for only woman on federal death row

Judge says Trump admin can't set execution for only woman on federal death row
The execution chamber is seen at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind., where federal inmates are put to death. UPI Photo/Fil | License Photo

Dec. 25 (UPI) -- A federal judge has postponed the execution of the only woman on federal death row, meaning it may be left up to the incoming Biden administration to determine whether she lives or dies.

Justice Department prosecutors wanted to execute Lisa Montgomery on Jan. 12, a little more than a week before Biden takes office, part of the Trump administration's campaign of federal executions that resumed in July after a 17-year hiatus.

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Montgomery, 52, who is said to have mental illness, was convicted in the 2004 death of Bobbie Jo Stinnett, a pregnant 23-year-old woman. She strangled the woman and cut her baby out of the womb, but the child ultimately survived.

She was originally set for execution on Dec. 8, but two of Montgomery's attorneys who'd filed for clemency were diagnosed with COVID-19, which delayed the execution.

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Prosecutors' effort to reschedule was rejected Thursday by U.S. District Judge Randy Moss in Washington, D.C.

He said the department did not follow the proper timeline under a legal previous order.

Defense attorney Sandra Babcock called on Trump to commute Montgomery's sentence to life in prison, given her client's mental illness and years of sexual and physical abuse.

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If put to death, Montgomery would be the first woman executed at the federal level since 1993.

Biden has promised to abolish the death penalty at the federal level, and the judge's decision in Montgomery's case may mean the Justice Department won't be able to reschedule her execution until sometime after Biden takes office on Jan. 20.

Earlier this month, Democratic Congressional members called on Biden to follow through on his pledge to end capital punishment at the federal level.

Trump's administration has executed 10 death row inmates since the punishment resumed in the summer, the most in any single year in the United States for decades.

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