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Only woman on federal death row petitions Trump for clemency

Jan. 5 (UPI) -- A woman convicted of murdering a pregnant Missouri woman and stealing her baby has asked President Donald Trump for clemency one week before her scheduled execution.

Lisa Montgomery 52, of Kansas, is scheduled to be executed Jan. 12 at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind., for the 2004 death of Bobbie Jo Stinnett.

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Prosecutors said Montgomery visited Stinnett's home under the guise of purchasing a puppy. Once there, though, she strangled the woman, who was eight months pregnant, then cut the baby from her body. Montgomery tried to pass the newborn off as her own.

Police later recovered the baby and returned her safe to her father.

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Montgomery is the only woman on federal death row.

Her lawyers filed a clemency petition with Trump on Dec. 24 and made the documents public Tuesday. They cited Montgomery's "lifetime of sexual torture," brain damage since birth and severe mental illness as reasons for relief.

"Broken before she was born, Lisa Montgomery's life was filled with torture, terror, failure, and betrayal," the petition addressed to Trump begins. "Caretakers, family members, neighbors, schoolteachers, social workers, counselors, lawyers, and judges -- all could have intervened to save Lisa from the crippling trauma and profound mental illness that overtook her already damaged brain, culminating in the awful tragedy that took the life of Bobbie Jo Stinnett.

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"Had just one person intervened, all of this could have been avoided. But they did not. And so now you are faced with the awesome responsibility of deciding whether Lisa Montgomery lives or dies."

The petition includes letters of support from dozens of current and former prosecutors, mental health experts, and advocates working against domestic violence, human trafficking.

Former prosecutors Stanley Garnett and Harry Zimmerman wrote in their letter that women convicted of such crimes are not typically sentenced to death because the very nature of the act indicates severe mental illness.

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"We know from first-hand experience that these crimes are inevitably the product of serious mental illness," they wrote. "Women who commit such crimes also are likely to have been victimized themselves. These are important factors that make death sentences inappropriate. We therefore urge you to commute the death sentence of Lisa Montgomery, a mentally ill and brutally traumatized woman."

Montgomery is housed at Federal Medical Center Carswell, but would be transferred to the facility at Terre Haute if her execution proceeds.

She received a stay of execution in November for her previous Dec. 8 execution date after her two lawyers became ill with COVID-19. The Bureau of Prisons rescheduled her execution for Jan. 12, but a federal judge in December said officials didn't follow the proper timeline to reschedule.

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Earlier this week, a federal appeals court vacated the lower court's delay, clearing the way for next week's execution date.

Montgomery is one of three federal death row inmates scheduled to be executed next week. Corey Johnson is set to die Jan. 14 and Dustin Higgs on Jan. 15, all days before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, who has said he'd work to pass legislation to eliminate the death penalty at the federal level.

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