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United States: first federal execution of woman in 70 years

It is the end of a long judicial soap opera, in the tense context of the end of the presidency of Donald Trump. The Department of Justice announced the execution, Wednesday, January 13, by lethal injection, of Lisa Montgomery, 52, at the federal penitentiary in Terre-Haute, Indiana.

→ READ. United States: the execution of a woman sentenced to death suspended by justice

The Supreme Court had previously given the green light to the execution during the night, rejecting the final appeals of the convict’s lawyers despite the disagreement of three progressive magistrates. This is the first federal execution of a woman in nearly 70 and one of the last acts of the outgoing president.

The Supreme Court validates the execution

In 2004, Lisa Montgomery killed an eight-month-pregnant woman in order to steal her fetus. She was sentenced to death in 2007 in Missouri. Without denying the gravity of her crime, her lawyers had emphasized, in an attempt to suspend the sentence, that she suffered from severe mental disorders, consequences of violence and gang rape suffered in her childhood.

Monday, January 11 in the evening, federal judge Patrick Hanlon had ordered a stay of his execution, the time to assess his mental state. But the court of appeal, seized by the Ministry of Justice, had however annulled this decision on Tuesday and the Supreme Court, profoundly changed by Donald Trump, validated its decision. The temple of American law, which had been seized of two other separate appeals, each time ruled in favor of the government lawyers.

The Trump administration’s ‘bloodlust’

The last federal executions of women date back to 1953, those of Bonnie Brown Heady, for kidnapping and murder, and of Ethel Rosenberg, for espionage.

A strong supporter of capital punishment, like his most conservative voters, Donald Trump has also ignored a request for clemency sent by the supporters of Lisa Montgomery.

→ READ. United States: Why this frenzy of federal executions?

Lisa Montgomery’s attorney, Kelley Henry, called this new execution a “Vicious”, evoking “The thirst for blood of a bankrupt administration”. Despite the decline in the death penalty in the United States and around the world, his administration resumed in July, after a 17-year hiatus, with federal executions and has chained them since at an unprecedented rate.

Two executions scheduled this week

Ten Americans have received lethal injections in Terre-Haute since the summer and the Trump administration plans, in addition to Lisa Montgomery, to execute two black men this week: Corey Johnson on Thursday and Dustin Higgs on Friday.

Here again, a fierce legal battle is engaged. A federal court decided on Tuesday to postpone their execution for several weeks on the grounds that they were contaminated by Covid-19. The administration of Donald Trump, on the contrary, displayed its determination to carry out as many executions as possible before leaving power. Opposing capital punishment, Joe Biden has vowed to work with Congress to ban it at the federal level.


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