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Supreme Court clears way for Lisa Montgomery to be executed Tuesday

Jan. 12 (UPI) -- The Supreme Court late Tuesday cleared the way for the only woman on federal death row to be executed.

Lisa Montgomery, 52, was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection Tuesday at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind., for the 2004 killing of a pregnant woman.

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But as the hours tick by, the country's highest court considered appeals in multiple cases -- including two in which Montgomery received stays of execution from lower courts.

Shortly before midnight, the Supreme Court issued two orders -- one denying a stay and the other lifting one.

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Kelley Henry, Montgomery's attorney, rebuked the Supreme Court's decision, stating "the craven bloodlust of a failed administration was on full display tonight."

"Everyone who participated in the execution of Lisa Montgomery should feel shame," she said.

Earlier in the day, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued a stay in a case in which her lawyers said the Justice Department violated the Federal Death Penalty Act by rescheduling her execution after she received a stay in November.

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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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In another ruling by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday, a three-judge panel vacated a lower court's stay issued Monday. In that case, her attorneys argued Montgomery wasn't competent to be put to death under the Constitution.

"Mrs. Montgomery has brain damage and severe mental illness that was exacerbated by the lifetime of sexual torture she suffered at the hands of caretakers," Henry said in an emailed statement to UPI last week. "Mrs. Montgomery is mentally deteriorating and we are seeking an opportunity to prove her incompetence."

Montgomery was sentenced to death in 2007 for the 2004 death of Bobbie Jo Stinnett. 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.

Montgomery's supporters said she should be spared the death penalty because she has severe mental illness after experiencing physical, emotional and sexual abuse as a child. They said her mother trafficked her as a teenager.

If executed, Montgomery would be the first person put death in the country this year. She's one of three executions scheduled for this week, including Corey Johnson on Thursday and Dustin Higgs on Friday.

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On Tuesday, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., blocked Johnson and Higgs' executions as they are both recovering from COVID-19.

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