“I get, you know, people like, ‘Death penalty’s wrong,’ but at what point do you excuse something like this?” he asked, several days before Ms. Montgomery was put to death. “I think, you know, it’s not right always to say an eye for an eye, but I think the community’s hurt enough that it would definitely help with some closure.”
Still, Ms. Montgomery’s lawyers cited the repeated physical and sexual abuse she endured as a child in pleas for leniency, arguing that President Trump would affirm the experiences of abuse survivors by commuting her sentence to life imprisonment. Her mother forced her to “pay the bills” through sexual acts with various repairmen, and her stepfather regularly subjected her to sexual abuse, a clinical psychologist said in a court declaration filed by her defense team.
Women are scarce on death row in the United States. According to a quarterly report from the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, just 2 percent of those inmates on death row are women. With Ms. Montgomery’s execution, there are now no women on federal death row.
The last women to be executed by the federal government were Bonnie Brown Heady for kidnapping and murder and Ethel Rosenberg for espionage, both in 1953.
Ms. Montgomery’s execution was originally scheduled for last month. But after two of her lawyers contracted the coronavirus, a judge delayed it, and the Justice Department rescheduled.
In her final days, Ms. Montgomery found some fleeting reprieve in the courts. Her lawyers had claimed that she was incompetent for execution, citing mental illness, neurological impairment and complex trauma. A federal judge in Indiana issued a stay on Monday night so that the court could conduct a hearing to determine her competency. But a panel on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals vacated that stay on Tuesday, writing that Ms. Montgomery’s claim could have been brought earlier. The judges also cited Supreme Court precedent, which emphasizes that last-minute stays of execution “should be the extreme exception, not the norm.”
Still, other court orders continued to block her execution well after the Bureau of Prisons’ tentatively scheduled execution time of 6 p.m. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued a separate stay so that the court could hear her claim related to the Federal Death Penalty Act, and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its own stay.