US woman faces first federal execution in 67 years

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The U.S. Justice Department said on Friday it has scheduled the first federal execution of a woman in almost 70 years, setting a Dec. 8 date to put to death Lisa Montgomery, convicted of a 2004 murder.

Montgomery, who was found guilty of strangling a pregnant woman in Missouri, will be executed by lethal injection at U.S. Penitentiary Terre Haute, Indiana, the department said in a statement.

The last woman to be executed by the U.S. government was Bonnie Heady, who was put to death in a gas chamber in Missouri in 1953, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

The justice department on Friday also scheduled a Dec. 10. execution for Brandon Bernard, who with his accomplices murdered two youth ministers in 1999.

The two executions will be the eighth and ninth the federal government has carried out in 2020.

The Trump administration ended an informal 17-year-hiatus in federal executions in July, after announcing last year that the Bureau of Prisons was switching to a new single-drug protocol for lethal injections, from a three-drug combination it last used in 2003.

The new protocol revived long-running legal challenges to lethal injections. In August, a federal judge in Washington, D.C. ruled the Justice Department was violating the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act in not seeking a doctor’s prescription to administer the highly regulated barbiturate.

But an appeals court held the violation did not in itself amount to “irreparable harm” and allowed federal executions to proceed.

In 2007, a U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri sentenced Montgomery to death after finding her guilty of a federal kidnapping resulting in death.

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Her attorney, Kelley Henry, said that Montgomery deserves to live because she is mentally ill and suffered childhood abuse.

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

Bernard’s attorney, Robert Owen, said in a statement the federal government misled the jury in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, which in 2000 found Bernard guilty of murder. Its decision was tainted by false testimony, Owen said.

“This evidence confirms that Mr. Bernard is simply not one of the ‘worst of the worst’ offenders for whom we reserve the death penalty, and that sparing his life would pose no risk to anyone,” Owen said.
Reuters

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