- The Washington Times - Friday, October 16, 2020

The Justice Department late Friday scheduled the execution of two convicted murderers, who, if put to death, could bring the total number of federal inmates killed this year to a record-setting 10.

Lisa Montgomery, who murdered a pregnant woman, cut open her stomach and kidnapped her unborn baby in 2004, will be put to death at the federal prison complex in Terre Haute, Indiana, on Dec. 8.

If executed, Montgomery will be the first woman executed by the federal government since 1953. She is the only woman currently on death row.

Brandon Bernard and his accomplices were convicted of killing two youth ministers on a military reservation in 1999. He is set to be executed at the Terre Haute prison complex on Dec. 10.

One of Bernard’s accomplices, Christopher Vialva, was executed for his role in the same crime on Sept. 22, 2020.

The Trump administration has been reinforcing its law-and-order message by resuming federal executions. Attorney General William P. Barr earlier this year reinstated the federal death penalty after a 17-year hiatus.

So far this year, the government has killed seven inmates on death row, the most in U.S. history. An eighth execution is set for Nov. 19.

The previous record for most government executions in one year was 1936, when six people were put to death. In 1953, the government killed five people.

Montgomery killed Bobbie Jo Stinnett after the two developed a friendship in an online chatroom. In 2004, Montgomery strangled Stinnett at the victim’s home in Skidmore, Missouri. She also cut open Stinnett’s stomach and cut the premature infant from her womb.

Montgomery was arrested the next day and the baby was returned to the care of her father. She was sentenced to death in October 2007.

Kelley Henry, an attorney for Montgomery, said her client suffered mental abuse as a sex trafficking victim. She said the abuses Montgomery endured triggered a genetic predisposition to mental illness, including post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Lisa Montgomery has long accepted full responsibility for her crime, and she will never leave prison. But her severe mental illness and the devastating impacts of her childhood trauma make executing her a profound injustice,” Ms. Henry said.

Bernard and Vialva were sentenced to death for the brutal murders of Iowa pastor Todd Bagley and his wife, Stacie, at Fort Hood, Texas.

Bernard was sentenced to death for Stacie’s death, while Vialva was sentenced to death for the murder of Todd Bagley.

Robert C. Owen, an attorney for Bernard, said his client has worked to redeem himself during his time in prison.

“Now 40, Mr. Bernard has spent more than half his life in prison, where his conduct has been exemplary,” Mr. Owen said. “He has not committed a single disciplinary infraction. He has worked whenever possible at one of the few jobs available to death row prisoners. He is known as a peaceable man who maintains close and loving relationships with his family and friends, and who spends his time reading, learning to play guitar, and crocheting.”

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

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