- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 12, 2020

Lawyers for the only woman on federal death row Thursday filed a lawsuit seeking to halt her scheduled execution, saying they’ve contracted COVID-19 during prison visits and need more time to prepare a clemency application.

Assistant federal public defenders Kelley Henry and Amy Harwell said in a statement they have “debilitating symptoms” and won’t be able to meet the Nov. 15 deadline for a clemency petition.

The lawyers say they contracted the coronavirus visiting their client in prison.

The two lawyers are representing Lisa Montgomery, 52, who was convicted of killing a pregnant woman in Oklahoma in 2004 and cutting the baby out of her womb. She is set to die by lethal injection at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, on Dec. 8.

After a 17-year hiatus, the federal prison system under the Trump administration has resumed executing prisoners. Seven death row inmates — all men — have been put to death since July.

If executed, Montgomery would be the first woman executed in the United States in almost 70 years.

But Montgomery’s lawyers have asked a federal court to issue a temporary restraining order so they can fully participate in the clemency arguments. The lawyers have filed the suit against the Justice Department and Attorney General William Barr.

“They are sick because [Mr. Barr] recklessly scheduled Ms. Montgomery’s execution in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic,” they wrote in the lawsuit. “But for Barr’s action, counsel would not have been stricken with the disease that is ravaging the country.”

“But the pandemic affects more than counsel. Because of COVID-19, the experts familiar with her case cannot assess her mental state and therefore cannot participate in the clemency process,” the lawsuit continued.

A Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment.

Montgomery was sentenced to death for the murder of Bobbie Jo Stinnett, who was 8 months pregnant. Her unborn child had been removed from her body, cut out with a kitchen knife. The child was missing but was later found and survived.

Attorneys and supporters for Montgomery have argued that she suffers from several mental disorders that emerged due to a lifetime of abuse.

They say she was sexually trafficked by her stepfather, who repeatedly allowed friends to gang-rape her and then later sex-trafficked to men by her mother.

Attorneys have also said that Montgomery was born with brain damage because her mother abused alcohol while pregnant.

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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