UPDATE: We are devastated and outraged. Lisa was executed in the early hours of January 13th. 

On January 13, 2021, the federal government executed Lisa Montgomery,  a woman with severe mental illness who suffered relentless physical, emotional, and sexual abuse including being trafficked by her own mother. More than 1000 current and former prosecutors, anti-violence advocates, anti-trafficking organizations, advocates for abused and neglected children, and mental health advocates asked the President to stop Lisa’s execution.

 

Case Background

Lisa Montgomery’s life has been marked by relentless trauma and terror, exacerbating her genetic predisposition to severe mental illness. Lisa committed her crime while in the grip of a psychotic episode and even today, she must take a complex cocktail of medications to stave off recurrent psychosis.

She is the only woman under a federal death sentence and the only woman on death row in the entire country for the type of crime that she committed. Although Lisa was only recently denied an appeal, the government set her execution on January 12, 2021. Lisa’s case has been marked by gender discrimination, ineffective lawyering, and other serious errors.

Lisa is a survivor of child abuse, domestic violence, incest, multiple rapes, and child sex trafficking. Lisa’s mother sexually trafficked her starting when she was a small child, including allowing her to be gang raped by adult men on multiple occasions and telling Lisa she had to “earn her keep.” Her years of torture at the hands of caregivers, documented brain damage, and severe mental illness have severed her connection with reality; without antipsychotic medication, she would lose the ability to understand what is happening to her and to know what is real.

A Childhood of Horrific Abuse and Mental Illness

Lisa was arrested on December 17, 2004 and sentenced to death on October 22, 2007 for the murder of Bobbie Jo Stinnett.  Lisa’s crime, itself, is a product of her mental illness and abuse: she killed Ms. Stinnett, who was pregnant, in order to claim the baby as her own. To understand Lisa’s crime—for which she has taken full responsibility—it is necessary to tell the story of Lisa’s life leading up to the offense.

Lisa was born into a family ravaged by poverty, violence, addiction, and mental illness. Her mother Judy drank throughout her pregnancy with Lisa, causing Lisa to be born with organic brain damage. Lisa’s father (who is also severely mentally ill) abandoned the family when Lisa was a small child, leaving her and her two sisters with Judy. Judy was violent and neglectful. She beat her children, including Lisa. She punished them by putting them in cold showers or by whipping them with belts, cords or hangers. She taped Lisa’s mouth shut with duct tape when she didn’t want to hear Lisa speaking. Lisa recounts how she learned not to cry when the duct tape was on her mouth, because her nose would become stuffed up and she couldn’t breathe. On one occasion Judy killed the family dog in front of Lisa and her siblings to punish them, brutally smashing its head with a shovel until it died.

Judy ultimately married six times, and had multiple partners throughout Lisa’s childhood. Lisa’s beloved sister Diane, who was only four years older than Lisa, sought to protect Lisa from Judy’s cruelty despite her own struggle to survive in the household. When Diane was a small child, Judy would force her to strip naked and lock her out of the house. When Diane was around eight years old, one of Judy’s male friends began regularly raping her, entering her room at night while she lay next to four-year-old Lisa in beds close enough that the girls could reach and touch each others’ hands.

Social services finally removed Diane from the home, but left Lisa behind. As they drove her away, Diane was overcome with fear over the fate of her younger sisters, vomiting over and over in the car. She did not see her sister Lisa again until she testified at trial.

When her mother married Jack Kleiner, Lisa’s life became a living hell. Jack was a mean drunk. According to one of his children, “[w]hen Jack came into a room, the atmosphere changed.” He punched, kicked, and choked his children, including Lisa. His beatings of Lisa had sexual overtones from the beginning:  he made her remove her clothes before he spanked her. He began to fondle her around the time Lisa was eleven years old. He raped her regularly for years after that, coming into her room at night. He threatened to rape her little sister if she resisted, and told her he would kill her entire family if she told anyone. Lisa’s mother described one of the rapes when she  testified in her divorce proceedings, “He was in her. He was pumping her.” But in private, Judy blamed Lisa for Jack’s sexual abuse. She was also prostituting Lisa to her male friends.

During these years, the family moved repeatedly. In the first fourteen years of her life, Lisa moved seventeen times. Jack eventually moved the family to an isolated, run-down trailer at the end of a dead end road. There was no running water. Jack built Lisa a small room onto the side of the trailer, making it easy for him to rape her out of earshot of others. She began to drink the wine stored in the room as a means to cope. She lived with constant terror and constant anticipation of rape.

When Lisa was around fifteen years old, Judy started to invite men to the house to have sex with Lisa in exchange for money and services. These men raped her orally, vaginally, and anally, “one after the other.” Her mother told her she had to “pay” for her room and the new indoor plumbing by submitting to the sexual torture of gang rape.

No One Intervened to Stop the Abuse

Her friends and teachers noticed Lisa’s poverty and observed signs that she was experiencing problems at home. One friend recounted, “I could tell she didn’t have money, because she wore old hand-me-down clothes that had holes in them and were too big. She wasn’t always clean. I could tell she couldn’t always wash her clothes. . . . It was easy to tell Lisa was poor even in our crowd who were all poor.” After the rapes began, her friends and family members reported that Lisa began to “space out » frequently. Lisa’s grades declined, and she was eventually placed in special needs classes. School administrators suspected abuse at Lisa’s home, but failed to take steps to investigate further or report it to the police.

During Judy’s divorce from Jack, Lisa testified about his rapes. The judge presiding over the case scolded Judy for failing to report the abuse to authorities—but failed to report the incident to the police, even though the statute of limitations had not run. Lisa was returned home with Judy, who escalated her abuse. She cut Lisa’s hair, saying that “only good girls have long hair.”

Lisa told her cousin, police officer David Kidwell, about the gang rapes that her mother instigated, crying and shaking while she described the abuse:

“She said it was over and over, one man right after the other, and went on for hours. They were also physically violent. They would beat and slap her if she was ‘doing it wrong.’ When they were done, they urinated on her like she was trash. . . I was horrified. . .”

Kidwell did nothing in response. He now says, “I live with regret for not speaking up about what happened to Lisa. I wonder if I had if all of this could have been prevented.”

Mental Illness Takes Over

Lisa has had brain damage since she was an infant. She now has multiple mental disorders, including bipolar disorder and temporal lobe epilepsy. The sexual torture caused Lisa to dissociate from reality. She developed a dissociative disorder and Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (“C-PTSD), a chronic mental illness that is common in those exposed to overwhelming threats to their physical safety. Dr. Katherine Porterfield, a renowned expert on torture and trauma, has testified that the impact of Lisa’s sexual abuse was “massive,” and that her disorder was one of the most severe cases of dissociation I’ve ever seen.” According to Dr. Porterfield, Lisa  » has a very . . . troubled relationship to her own body. She literally does not perceive her body accurately in some cases and has trouble remembering, for instance, states of her body with accuracy. »

Lisa’s trauma was so severe that it compromised her neurological functioning and development. As a result, Lisa has trouble processing information and navigating social relationships. She struggles to maintain her own hygiene, loses focus during conversations with others, and has trouble planning simple tasks.

At her mother’s instigation, Lisa became engaged to her stepbrother at age seventeen, and they married when she was eighteen. He continued the cycle of abuse, raping and beating her. Perversely, he captured his torture of Lisa –and her cries of pain–on video. After discovering the video, Lisa’s brother said it was “out of a horror movie.”

Lisa gave birth to four children. After her fourth child was born, her mother pressured her into an involuntary sterilization. Over the years, her mental health continued to deteriorate, and her behavior became increasingly erratic. She lived in dire poverty. A social services report documented the family’s terrible living conditions, citing missing walls, floors, no running water or plumbing, no furniture or beds, loose wires, and children sleeping on the floor.  By the time Lisa was thirty-four she had moved sixty-one times, mimicking the instability she grew up with. She divorced and married again.

Two days before the crime, her abusive former husband (and stepbrother) filed for custody of two of her children. At the time, she had told her new husband she was pregnant—which her former husband knew was untrue because she had been sterilized against her will. He threatened to expose her, and said he would use the imagined pregnancy in court to obtain custody of her children. The threat of losing her children combined with years of trauma and severe mental illness pushed Lisa past the brink. She went to the home of Bobbie Jo Stinnett, who was twenty-three and eight months pregnant. Lisa killed her, cut the baby girl from her mother’s abdomen, took the baby home, and cared for her as though she was her own.

The crime that Lisa committed, though rare, is not unprecedented. More than a dozen women have committed similar crimes around the country, and none, besides Lisa, are condemned to die. The crime itself is a reflection of mental illness. But the Bush Justice Department, under Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, decided that life imprisonment was not a sufficient punishment for her crime.

At Trial, Prosecutors Denegrate Evidence of Lisa’s Victimization

The brutal exploitation she had endured since she was a child made it hard for Lisa to trust anyone, particularly men. Her predominantly male defense team, controlled by Dave Owen, was ill-equipped to address her complex trauma. Owen had never defended a capital case. To ensure Lisa received competent legal representation , experts recommended the appointment of Judy Clarke, one of the most talented defense attorneys in the country, with particular expertise working with clients who are victims of abuse and trauma.  Ms. Clarke’s appointment to the case was a sea change. For the first time, Lisa felt like she could build a trusting relationship with counsel. Lisa felt that Ms. Clarke “truly cared” about her well-being and best interests.

Owen, however, was unhappy with Clarke’s involvement in Lisa’s defense. According to female lawyers working in the same office with Owen, he “[chafed] at Ms. Clarke’s leadership role on the team” and was not “particularly good at working with women,” especially “[women] on equal footing.” The chief investigator on Lisa’s case, who was also male, repeatedly made clear that he was “not going to take any orders from any damn woman.”

Without informing Ms. Clarke, Owen and his boss asked the male federal judge to remove her from the case. The lawyers told the judge that “friction” had developed between them and Ms. Clarke. They said that Ms. Clarke was  “abusive,” “non-productive,” and “obstructive.” Without hearing from Ms. Clarke, the federal judge removed her from the case. The judge ordered that all contact with Ms. Clarke be cut off, and on April 20, 2006, when Ms. Clarke attempted to visit Lisa in jail, she was refused entry. Lisa did not see Ms. Clarke again until after Lisa was sent to federal death row.

When Lisa learned that Ms. Clarke’s appointment had been terminated without her approval, her mental and emotional health deteriorated. Holly Jackson, the mitigation expert who met with Lisa after Ms. Clarke’s removal, reported that Lisa was inconsolable. She had trouble sleeping and getting out of bed, sobbed profusely, and could not eat. She was suicidal.

With the removal of Ms. Clarke, the outcome of Lisa’s trial was preordained. The defense failed to present critical evidence of Lisa’s sexual exploitation and torture, and failed to explain to the jury why it mattered. Instead of presenting expert testimony on the trauma disorder brought about by repeated rape, child sexual trafficking, and torture by her caregivers, one of her male defense attorneys read a poem about rape during his closing argument. Prosecutors ridiculed the evidence of Lisa’s rapes, referring to it dismissively as the “abuse excuse.” They faulted Lisa’s mothering skills, telling the jury that she didn’t go to her children’s events, and that “[s]he didn’t cook, and [s]he didn’t clean.” They told the jury that she lived in a “filthy home.” After five hours of deliberation, the jury recommended that she be sentenced to death.

Since Lisa has been on death row, prison psychiatrists have controlled the worst symptoms of her mental illness with a variety of psychotropic medications. In prison, she has received treatment for her mental illness that she never received in her life before her arrest. Despite the medication, Lisa still panics—and often breaks out in hives— if she is in a room alone with a man.

Since her conviction in 2007, Lisa has maintained connection with her children. She is now a grandmother. She has accepted responsibility for her crime and has expressed deep remorse.

Lisa Montgomery committed a crime that she can never take back, and her actions had tragic consequences for Ms. Stinnett and her family. But the tragedy caused by her actions will not be remedied by her execution, which will only perpetuate the cycle of trauma.

Press Releases

FR : le 13 janvier

DÉCLARATION DE L’AVOCATE KELLEY HENRY AU SUJET DE L’EXÉCUTION DE LISA MONTGOMERY

« La soif de sang d’une administration défaillante s’est affichée aux yeux du monde entier ce soir. Tous ceux qui ont participé à l’exécution de Lisa Montgomery devraient avoir honte. Personne ne conteste que Mme Montgomery a été victime de tortures indicibles et de trafics sexuels. Personne ne peut, de manière crédible, contester la maladie mentale débilitante de longue date de Mme Montgomery – diagnostiquée et traitée pour la première fois par les médecins du Bureau des prisons. Notre Constitution interdit l’exécution d’une personne qui est incapable de comprendre rationnellement son exécution. L’administration actuelle le sait. Cela ne l’a pas empêché de la tuer. Violant à cette occasion la Constitution, la loi fédérale, ses propres règlements, et des normes ancrées de longue date.

Le gouvernement n’a reculé devant rien dans son zèle pour tuer cette femme meurtrie et hantée par des hallucinations. Après que nous, ses avocates, avons contracté la COVID-19 quand nous lui avons rendu visite à la suite de l’annonce de sa date d’exécution, le gouvernement s’est battu bec et ongles contre tout report pour nous permettre de récupérer et de la défendre de manière adéquate. Ils ont ensuite violé la loi à multiples reprises en reportant son exécution aux derniers jours de l’administration Trump. Au mépris des tribunaux qui convenaient que le dossier de Lisa soulevait d’’importantes questions juridiques justifiant un examen sérieux – notamment la question de savoir si elle était compétente pour être exécutée – le gouvernement a imperturbablement continué à lancer des appels.

En insistant pour procéder à une exécution pendant une pandémie, cette administration a démontré son mépris pour la vie de citoyens innocents. Les exécutions sont des événements portant un risque important de contagion. Le gouvernement le sait. Néanmoins, il a joué la vie de chaque personne qui a dû participer à cet « événement » ainsi que celle de ses amis, de sa famille, de ses voisins, collègues et qui sait combien d’autres encore. Parce que cette administration craignait que le prochain président choisisse la vie plutôt que la mort, elle a mis la vie et la santé des citoyens américains en grave danger. Au milieu de tous ces litiges, la demande de grâce de Lisa est restée sans réponse devant le président Trump. Elle a été soutenue par des milliers d’organisations et d’individus – des chefs religieux, des groupes anti-violence, des défenseurs des droits de l’homme, des dirigeants conservateurs, des organisations internationales, et bien d’autres encore. Mais le président n’a rien fait. Bien qu’il soit difficile d’imaginer un cas qui mérite plus que celui-ci une intervention de l’exécutif, il n’a même pas eu la décence de refuser formellement – ou même de reconnaître – la demande de grâce de Lisa.

L’exécution de Lisa Montgomery était loin d’être juste. Jamais elle n’aurait dû être condamnée à mort, et aucune autre femme n’a été exécutée pour un crime similaire. Lisa était bien plus que le crime tragique qu’elle a commis, un crime pour lequel elle a éprouvé de profonds remords avant de perdre tout contact avec la réalité dans les jours qui ont précédé son exécution. Lisa était également bien plus que les horreurs qui lui ont été infligées, les violences et abus sexuels qu’elle a subis aux mains de ceux qui étaient censés l’aimer, l’élever et la protéger.

Lisa était une mère, une grand-mère et une sœur aimante qui adorait sa famille. Elle était une chrétienne pieuse qui aimait Noël et fabriquait des anges délicats pour ceux qui avaient la chance de recevoir ses cadeaux. Lisa se retrouvait souvent piégée dans la prison de son esprit, perdant le contact avec la réalité des jours à la fois. Mais lorsqu’elle n’était pas en proie à la psychose, elle était une personne douce et attentionnée que j’ai été honorée de connaître et de défendre.

Lisa Nouri, Amy Harwell et moi-même avons représenté Mme Montgomery pendant huit ans. Nous l’aimions beaucoup et elle nous aimait. Elle nous honorait de sa vérité et nous faisait confiance pour la partager d’une manière qui non seulement ferait justice à son histoire, mais qui pourrait également aider d’autres femmes.

Même si le président Trump n’a pas pu être le héros que nous lui avons demandé d’être, nous sommes ici pour dire à toutes les femmes et à toutes les jeunes filles qui ont été victimes de violence et de dénigrement : Vous comptez. Votre douleur compte. Vous êtes plus qu’une victime. Vous êtes une survivante. Ne laissez personne vous humilier ou vous faire ressentir la honte. Vous méritez d’être aimée.

Cette semaine, nous avons vu jusqu’où le président Trump et son administration iront dans leur mépris pour la justice et l’État de droit. Ce gouvernement en défaillant s’ajoute à la longue liste de personnes et d’institutions qui ont abandonné Lisa.

Nous devons reconnaître la véritable nature de l’exécution de Lisa Montgomery : l’exercice d’un pouvoir autoritaire vicieux, illégal et injustifiable. Nous ne pouvons pas lui permettre de se reproduire. »

— Kelley Henry, avocate de Lisa Montgomery, le 13 janvier 2021

January 12th

Contact: Laura Burstein at laura.burstein@squirepb.com

Lisa Montgomery, Who is Out of Touch with Reality and is Not Competent to be Executed, Petitions the U.S. Supreme Court for a Stay of Execution

(Washington, D.C.) Attorneys for Lisa Montgomery just filed a motion for stay of execution with the U.S. Supreme Court stating that the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana properly granted a stay of execution in order to conduct an evidentiary hearing to determine whether she is competent to be executed under the Eighth Amendment and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals should not have vacated it.

Mrs. Montgomery’s application is supported by three experts, including one BOP expert who previously treated Mrs. Montgomery, all of whom agree that Mrs. Montgomery is currently incompetent to be executed.

Read Lisa Montgomery’s Motion for Stay of Execution here: https://tinyurl.com/yyym5kul

The Motion states:

« The lower court decision was reasoned, applied the applicable, controlling law, and, after calling balls and strikes, the district court judge reasonably granted a stay of execution and an evidentiary hearing on Mrs. Montgomery’s claims under Ford v. Wainwright, 477 U.S. 399 (1986). Ford claims are not cognizable until ‘execution is imminent,’ Panetti v. Quarterman, 551 U.S. 930, 949 (2007), meaning ‘about to happen,’ not when it is convenient for the parties or the courts. The district court’s decision reflected an adequate, indeed a compelling, legal basis for entering a stay and providing for an evidentiary hearing; that decision ought to be afforded great weight, as the district court did precisely what is expected from district court judges. » (Motion at p. 2.)

On January 8, 2021, Mrs. Montgomery filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus, which can be viewed here: https://tinyurl.com/yy4nqkm4, stating that tonight’s execution would violate the Eighth Amendment because she is not competent for execution and the Fifth Amendment because she has not been given the opportunity to prove her incompetence. Mrs. Montgomery has brain damage, severe mental illness, and suffered a lifetime of sexual torture. Her already fragile mental health is currently deteriorating, according to her attorneys.

Mrs. Montgomery suffers from brain damage from her mother’s drinking during pregnancy, multiple head injuries, and the neurobiological impact of the severe torture that she experienced over her lifetime “resulting in her becoming detached from reality.” (Petition at p. 14.) Her brain was likely further damaged when, as a young teenager, her stepfather frequently slammed her head into a concrete floor while raping her. Scientific imaging shows that her brain is damaged structurally and functionally. (Petition at pp. 47, 51, 62, 63-68.)

The petition states: “Presently [Mrs. Montgomery’s] mental condition results in her inability rationally to understand she will be executed, why she will be executed, or even where she is. Under such circumstances, her execution would violate the Eighth Amendment.” (Petition at p. 8, citing Madison v. Alabama (2019), Panetti v. Quarterman (2007), and Ford v. Wainwright (1985.)

Dr. George Woods, an expert in neuropsychiatry, stated that the kind of brain damage that Mrs. Montgomery has affects her ability to have accurate perceptions of reality. He concluded: “In my professional opinion, which I hold to a reasonable degree of psychiatric certainty, Lisa Montgomery is unable to rationally understand the government’s rationale for her execution as required by Ford v. Wainwright, 477 U.S. 399 (1986).” (See Petition at pp. 76-77, 83.)

Dr. Katherine Porterfield, a clinical psychologist and a leading expert on torture, stated: “My opinion, which is based on information obtained from Mrs. Montgomery’s attorneys about their daily communication with her, as well as my previous evaluation of Mrs. Montgomery over four days and eighteen hours of face to face interviewing in 2016, and extensive review of Mrs. Montgomery’s biopsychosocial history through records and witness interviews, is that as a result of her severe mental illness Mrs. Montgomery is currently unable to rationally understand the basis for her execution. My opinion is also based on my knowledge and experience as a psychologist who has worked with survivors of torture and other trauma for more than two decades, and the United States Supreme Court opinion in Madison v. Alabama, 139 S.Ct. 718 (2019).” (See Petition at p. 69.)

Because of COVID-19 restrictions at the federal prisons, neither expert has been able to examine Mrs. Montgomery since her execution was scheduled. (See Petition at p. 72, 74.) The petition requests a hearing to determine her competence before any execution takes place.

In addition to brain damage, Mrs. Montgomery has been diagnosed with epilepsy, bipolar disorder, and complex posttraumatic stress disorder after a lifetime of sexual torture. The government’s mental health professionals agree that Mrs. Montgomery is seriously mentally ill. She has been incarcerated at the Federal Medical Center, Carswell, a federal prison for female inmates with special mental health needs. Federal Bureau of Prisons psychiatrists have documented Mrs. Montgomery in an acute psychotic state and have prescribed anti-psychotic medication since 2008, but the medication can only do so much. (Petition at pp. 4, 19-22.)

One of Mrs. Montgomery’s key symptoms is dissociating and being able to know what is real and not real. Dr. Porterfield, one of the nation’s leading experts on torture, has testified that children who experience the type of trauma that Mrs. Montgomery experienced lose contact with reality. What is happening to them is so terrifying that their mind goes to another place to survive. From a very young age and continuing into the present day, Mrs. Montgomery has been disconnected from her physical being and out of touch with reality. (Petition at pp. 42, 43.)

Mrs. Montgomery was genetically predisposed to mental illness because she had severe mental illness on both sides of her family. As a young teenager, she was kept as a sexual slave for her stepfather, who built a special rape room for this purpose.

Her stepfather invited his friends to rape Lisa vaginally, orally, and anally, and they “urinated on her like she was trash” afterward. (Petition at pp. 2, 22, 23.)

Lisa’s mother allowed adult men to rape Lisa for money or in exchange for home repairs, including gang rapes. Lisa’s mother’s cruelty was unimaginable: she once killed the family dog with a shovel in front of Lisa and the other children to punish them. Many adults – including a cousin who was a law enforcement officer and the judge in her mother’s divorce proceedings – knew what was happening to Lisa and did nothing to intervene. (Petition at pp. 24, 35.)

For more information please contact: Laura Burstein at laura.burstein@squirepb.com or 202-669-3411

January 11th

Attorney Statement: Stay in Lisa Montgomery Case Based on Competency for Execution Claim

Tonight, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana granted a stay of execution for Lisa Montgomery in order to conduct an evidentiary hearing to determine whether she is currently competent to be executed under the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Experts in neuropsychiatry and clinical psychology submitted affidavits to the Court stating that Mrs. Montgomery is unable to rationally understand the basis for her execution and therefore was not competent under Madison v. Alabama (2019), Panetti v. Quarterman (2007), and Ford v. Wainwright (1985).

Kelley Henry, Lisa Montgomery’s attorney, made the following statement:

“The Court was right to put a stop to Lisa Montgomery’s execution. As the court found, Mrs. Montgomery ‘made a strong showing’ of her current incompetence to be executed. Mrs. Montgomery has brain damage and severe mental illness that was exacerbated by the lifetime of sexual torture she suffered at the hands of caretakers. The Eighth Amendment prohibits the execution of people like Mrs. Montgomery who, due to their severe mental illness or brain damage, do not understand the basis for their executions. Mrs. Montgomery is mentally deteriorating and we are seeking an opportunity to prove her incompetence.”

— Kelley Henry, attorney for Lisa Montgomery

— January 11, 2021

The court’s order can be view here: https://tinyurl.com/y58444fs

Mrs. Montgomery’s Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus can be viewed here: https://tinyurl.com/yy4nqkm4

January 8th

Contact: Laura Burstein at laura.burstein@squirepb.com or 202-669-3411

Lisa Montgomery, Who is Out of Touch with Reality and Has No Rational Understanding of Her Scheduled Execution, is Not Competent to be Executed

(Indianapolis, IN) Attorneys for Lisa Montgomery tonight filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus stating that her January 12, 2021 execution would violate the Eighth Amendment because she is not competent for execution and the Fifth Amendment because she has not been given the opportunity to prove her incompetence. Mrs. Montgomery has brain damage, severe mental illness, and suffered a lifetime of sexual torture. Her already fragile mental health is currently deteriorating, according to her attorneys.

Mrs. Montgomery suffers from brain damage from her mother’s drinking during pregnancy, multiple head injuries, and the neurobiological impact of the severe torture that she experienced over her lifetime “resulting in her becoming detached from reality.” (Petition at p. 14.) Her brain was likely further damaged when, as a young teenager, her stepfather frequently slammed her head into a concrete floor while raping her. Scientific imaging shows that her brain is damaged structurally and functionally. (Petition at pp. 47, 51, 62, 63-68.)

The petition states: “Presently [Mrs. Montgomery’s] mental condition results in her inability rationally to understand she will be executed, why she will be executed, or even where she is. Under such circumstances, her execution would violate the Eighth Amendment.” (Petition at p. 8, citing Madison v. Alabama (2019), Panetti v. Quarterman (2007), and Ford v. Wainwright (1985.)

Mrs. Montgomery’s Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, which was filed in the Southern District of Indiana District Court, can be viewed here: https://tinyurl.com/yy4nqkm4

Dr. George Woods, an expert in neuropsychiatry, stated that the kind of brain damage that Mrs. Montgomery has affects her ability to have accurate perceptions of reality. He concluded: “In my professional opinion, which I hold to a reasonable degree of psychiatric certainty, Lisa Montgomery is unable to rationally understand the government’s rationale for her execution as required by Ford v. Wainwright, 477 U.S. 399 (1986).” (See Petition at pp. 76-77, 83.)

Dr. Katherine Porterfield, a clinical psychologist and a leading expert on torture, stated: “My opinion, which is based on information obtained from Mrs. Montgomery’s attorneys about their daily communication with her, as well as my previous evaluation of Mrs. Montgomery over four days and eighteen hours of face to face interviewing in 2016, and extensive review of Mrs. Montgomery’s biopsychosocial history through records and witness interviews, is that as a result of her severe mental illness Mrs. Montgomery is currently unable to rationally understand the basis for her execution. My opinion is also based on my knowledge and experience as a psychologist who has worked with survivors of torture and other trauma for more than two decades, and the United States Supreme Court opinion in Madison v. Alabama, 139 S.Ct. 718 (2019).” (See Petition at p. 69.)

Because of COVID-19 restrictions at the federal prisons, neither expert has been able to examine Mrs. Montgomery since her execution was scheduled. (See Petition at p. 72, 74.) The petition requests a hearing to determine her competence before any execution takes place.

In addition to brain damage, Mrs. Montgomery has been diagnosed with epilepsy, bipolar disorder, and complex posttraumatic stress disorder after a lifetime of sexual torture. The government’s mental health professionals agree that Mrs. Montgomery is seriously mentally ill. She has been incarcerated at the Federal Medical Center, Carswell, a federal prison for female inmates with special mental health needs. Federal Bureau of Prisons psychiatrists have documented Mrs. Montgomery in an acute psychotic state and have prescribed anti-psychotic medication since 2008, but the medication can only do so much. (Petition at pp. 4, 19-22.)

One of Mrs. Montgomery’s key symptoms is dissociating and being able to know what is real and not real. Dr. Porterfield, one of the nation’s leading experts on torture, has testified that children who experience the type of trauma that Mrs. Montgomery experienced lose contact with reality. What is happening to them is so terrifying that their mind goes to another place to survive. From a very young age and continuing into the present day, Mrs. Montgomery has been disconnected from her physical being and out of touch with reality. (Petition at pp. 42, 43.)

Mrs. Montgomery was genetically predisposed to mental illness because she had severe mental illness on both sides of her family. As a young teenager, she was kept as a sexual slave for her stepfather, who built a special rape room for this purpose.

Her stepfather invited his friends to rape Lisa vaginally, orally, and anally, and they “urinated on her like she was trash” afterward. (Petition at pp. 2, 22, 23.)

Lisa’s mother allowed adult men to rape Lisa for money or in exchange for home repairs, including gang rapes. Lisa’s mother’s cruelty was unimaginable: she once killed the family dog with a shovel in front of Lisa and the other children to punish them. Many adults – including a cousin who was a law enforcement officer and the judge in her mother’s divorce proceedings – knew what was happening to Lisa and did nothing to intervene. (Petition at pp. 24, 35.)

View the PDF version of the press release here: Lisa Montgomery, Who is Out of Touch with Reality and Has No Rational Understanding of Her Scheduled Execution, is Not Competent to be Executed

January 5th

Contact: Laura Burstein at laura.burstein@squirepb.com or 202-669-3411

www.SaveLisa.org @DeathPenaltyWW

Lisa Montgomery, a Person with Severe Trauma and Mental Illness, and Only Woman on Federal Death Row, Petitions for Clemency

Execution Scheduled for January 12, 2021

(Washington, D.C.) Lisa Montgomery, who was born with brain damage, suffered a lifetime of sexual torture, and struggles with severe mental illness and keeping in touch with reality, has submitted a petition for executive clemency to President Trump. “Our country has long recognized that mental illness is a mitigating factor and calls for a lesser punishment,” the clemency petition states.

The petition, which can be viewed at https://tinyurl.com/ybawop7b, opens:

Broken before she was born, Lisa Montgomery’s life was filled with torture, terror, failure, and betrayal. Caretakers, family members, neighbors, schoolteachers, social workers, counselors, lawyers, and judges — all could have intervened to save Lisa from the crippling trauma and profound mental illness that overtook her already damaged brain, culminating in the awful tragedy that took the life of Bobbie Jo Stinnett. Had just one person intervened, all of this could have been avoided. But they did not. And so now you are faced with the awesome responsibility of deciding whether Lisa Montgomery lives or dies. You alone have the power to temper Justice with Mercy. You alone have the power to protect her children and grandchildren from more heartache and pain. You alone have the power to join the growing chorus to end the stigmatization of mental illness. You alone have the power to send a message to the thousands of women who have been the victim of childhood rape and trafficking that their pain matters – that they matter – that their lives have value. You alone write the ending to this story – does it end with more pain? Or does it end with hope, mercy, and understanding? We pray it is the latter. (Clemency Petition at p. 1.)

Mrs. Montgomery is the only woman to face execution in America for the type of crime she committed – attacking a pregnant woman and taking the baby – because most prosecutors recognize that such crimes are the product of severe mental illness and trauma. Stanley Garnett and Harry Zimmerman, who prosecuted women for crimes similar to Mrs. Montgomery’s, wrote to President Trump:

We know from first-hand experience that these crimes are inevitably the product of serious mental illness. Women who commit such crimes also are likely to have been victimized themselves. These are important factors that make death sentences inappropriate. We therefore urge you to commute the death sentence of Lisa Montgomery, a mentally ill and brutally traumatized woman[.] (Clemency Petition at p. 7.)

The nation’s three leading mental health organizations — the National Alliance of Mental Illness, Mental Health America, and Treatment Advocacy Center — wrote to urge President Trump to commute Mrs. Montgomery’s sentence: “We believe that Ms. Montgomery, who acted in grip of a psychotic episode, should not be subject to the death penalty due to her brain damage and severe mental illnesses, and a sentence of life imprisonment without possibility of release is an appropriate sentence for her.” (Clemency Petition at p. 8.)

The petition contains 509 exhibits totaling 6,834 pages, which require additional time for careful review. In addition to the letter from former prosecutors who prosecuted similar cases and the mental health organizations, a broad, bipartisan, and diverse array of organizations wrote to President Trump supporting clemency for Mrs. Montgomery, including letters from 41 current and former prosecutors; 800 organizations and individuals working to combat violence against women; 100 organizations and individuals working to combat human trafficking; 40 child advocates whose work is devoted to protecting abused, victimized, and abandoned children; the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights; United Nation experts; 81 organizations and individuals working in the field of human rights; and over 140,000 citizens who have signed a petition urging clemency.

See Letters in Support of Clemency at https://tinyurl.com/yc44d6vu.

Mrs. Montgomery’s mother was an out-of-control, mentally unstable alcoholic, who drank during her pregnancy with Lisa and caused her to be born with brain damage. Her violence and cruelty toward Lisa and the other children knew no bounds. At one point, Lisa’s mother killed the family dog by beating its head with a shovel in front of the children. (Clemency Petition at pp. 2-3.)

Lisa’s stepfather started to molest her when she was around 11 years old and began raping her as a young teenager. He built a separate rape room, where he beat her head against the concrete floor and invited his friends to rape Lisa anally, orally, and vaginally. Lisa’s mother also allowed men to rape Lisa in exchange for money, including gang rapes. She told Lisa she had to submit to these men to “earn her keep.” (Clemency Petition at p. 4.)

Many people knew what was happening to Lisa – including a neighbor, a cousin who was a law enforcement officer, and the judge in her mother’s divorce – and no one intervened. (Clemency Petition at pp. 4-5.) Scientific imaging demonstrates that Mrs. Montgomery’s brain is damaged structurally and functionally. In addition to brain damage, she has temporal lobe epilepsy, bipolar disorder, and complex posttraumatic stress disorder. “If she had received treatment and medication, then this crime would never have happened,” Mrs. Montgomery’s petition states. (Clemency Petition at p. 7.)

Despite all of this, the federal government intends to execute Mrs. Montgomery on January 12, 2021. On Christmas Eve, a federal district court correctly held that the government acted illegally in setting the January 12 execution date because the government’s own regulations prevent the setting of an execution date while a stay is in effect. The government appealed that decision in a race to execute Mrs. Montgomery on January 12 and a three-judge panel reversed the district court. Mrs. Montgomery’s legal team appealed to the full United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and that appeal was denied on January 5, 2021.

###

The Petition for Executive Clemency on Behalf of Lisa Marie Montgomery Presented to President Donald J. Trump can be viewed here: https://tinyurl.com/ybawop7b 

A powerful song and video about Lisa’s story are available here: https://youtu.be/okWfnh3pDcA

View the PDF version of the press release here: Lisa Montgomery Clemency Petition Press Release

FR : le 3 décembre

Contact : Sandra Babcock, slb348@cornell.edu, (312) 823-2330 @sandralbabcock, www.savelisa.org.

Laura Burstein, Laura.Burstein@squirepb.com, (202) 669-3411, @LauraBurstein1.

LES PRINCIPALES ENTITÉS ET EXPERTS INTERNATIONAUX DES DROITS DE L’HOMME APPELLENT LE GOUVERNEMENT AMÉRICAIN À SUSPENDRE L’EXÉCUTION DE LISA MONTGOMERY EN INVOQUANT SA SANTÉ MENTALE ET SES ANTÉCÉDENTS DE VIOLENCE SEXUELLE

(Jeudi 3 décembre 2020) Une coalition d’entités et d’experts internationaux des droits de l’homme a demandé au gouvernement américain de suspendre l’exécution de Lisa Montgomery, prévue pour le 12 janvier 2020. Dès son enfance, Mme Montgomery a été victime de violences sexuelles graves et répétées, et souffre aujourd’hui d’une maladie mentale qui l’oblige à prendre plusieurs médicaments pour éviter une psychose totale.

En citant la maladie mentale de Mme Montgomery, la Commission interaméricaine des droits de l’homme (CIDH) a conclu que Mme Montgomery « se trouve dans une situation de risque grave et urgent d’atteinte irréparable à ses droits ». La Commission a appelé les États-Unis à s’abstenir de procéder à l’exécution de Mme Montgomery et à « adopter les mesures nécessaires pour protéger [sa] vie ».

La Commission a également déclaré que les conditions de détention de Mme Montgomery étaient inadéquates « pour une femme ayant survécu à des violences sexuelles, surtout si l’on prend en compte les informations très sérieuses d’abus sexuels qu’elle a subis au cours de sa vie ». La Commission a appelé les États-Unis à garantir des conditions de détention humaines « compatibles avec les normes internationales ».

La décision de la CIDH sur le sursis à l’exécution peut être consultée ici : https://tinyurl.com/y4gsj2vk

Une coalition d’experts des droits de l’homme de l’Organisation des Nations Unies (ONU) a également lancé un inhabituel appel commun pour une demande de grâce dans le cas de Mme Montgomery.

« Toute sa vie, Mme Montgomery a été victime d’extrêmes abus physiques et sexuels, desquels l’État ne l’a jamais protégé et pour lesquels il n’a jamais fourni de recours. Elle souffrait de plusieurs problèmes de santé mentale que l’État n’a pas pris en charge », on déclaré les experts. « Il est honteux que les années d’abus sexuels subies par Mme Montgomery et la négligence de l’État aient été aggravées par la discrimination sexuelle dont elle a été victime et qui était omniprésente à tous les stades de la procédure ».

La déclaration a été signée par les experts des Nations unies sur la violence contre les femmes, les exécutions extrajudiciaires, sommaires ou arbitraires, les droits des personnes handicapées, la torture et autres peines ou traitements cruels, inhumains ou dégradants, l’extrême pauvreté et les droits de l’homme, et le groupe de travail sur la discrimination contre les femmes et les filles.

La lettre de la coalition d’experts des Nations unies est accessible ici : https://tinyurl.com/yxrsouoj

Ces experts internationaux se joignent à plus de 1 000 organisations et individus – dont d’anciens procureurs et des organisations de lutte contre la violence domestique et le trafic sexuel d’enfants – qui ont écrit au président Trump pour lui demander de commuer la condamnation à mort de Mme Montgomery.

Les lettres de plus de 1000 organisations et défenseurs des droits de l’homme peuvent être consultées ici : https://tinyurl.com/y6kethld

La Commission interaméricaine a rendu sa décision en réponse à une requête déposée par la Clinique internationale des droits de l’homme de la Cornell Law School. La pétition fait valoir que les États-Unis ont violé plusieurs obligations juridiques internationales dans le cas de Mme Montgomery, notamment son droit à ne pas subir de discrimination sexuelle, son droit à un procès équitable et son droit à un traitement humain. La pétition fait également valoir que Mme Montgomery ne peut être exécutée en raison de sa grave maladie mentale, en particulier d’un trouble dissociatif et d’un trouble complexe de stress post-traumatique.

La Commission interaméricaine des droits de l’homme est un organe de l’Organisation des États américains (OEA) qui a le pouvoir d’examiner les violations des droits de l’homme aux États-Unis. Les États-Unis sont membres de l’OEA depuis 1951 et acceptent la compétence de la Commission interaméricaine dans les affaires de peine de mort. La pétition déposée par la Clinique de Cornell peut être consultée sur le site https://tinyurl.com/y5zmt545.

Pour plus d’informations, veuillez contacter :

Sandra Babcock, slb348@cornell.edu, (312) 823-2330

Laura.Burstein@squirepb.com, (202) 669-3411

Ou veuillez consulter le site www.savelisa.org.

December 3rd

Contacts: Laura Burstein, Laura.Burstein@squirepb.com, (202) 669-3411, @LauraBurstein1; www.savelisa.org.

Sandra Babcock, slb348@cornell.edu

Leading International Human Rights Entities and Experts Appeal to U.S. Government to Stay the Execution of Lisa Montgomery, Citing her Mental Illness and History of Sexual Violence

(Thursday, December 3, 2020) A coalition of international human rights entities and experts has called upon the U.S. Government to stay the execution of Lisa Montgomery, scheduled for January 12, 2020. Mrs. Montgomery was a victim of severe and repeated sexual violence starting in her childhood, and is now so mentally ill that she requires multiple medications to prevent full-blown psychosis.

Citing Mrs. Montgomery’s severe mental illness, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) concluded that Mrs. Montgomery “is in a situation of serious and urgent risk of irreparable harm to her rights.” The Commission called on the United States to refrain from carrying out Mrs. Montgomery’s execution, and to “adopt necessary measures to protect [her] life.”

The Commission also stated that the conditions of Mrs. Montgomery’s detention were inadequate “for a woman survivor of sexual violence, especially considering the very serious information of sexual abuse during [her] life.” The Commission called on the United States to provide humane detention conditions “compatible with international standards.”

The IACHR’s Ruling on a Stay of Execution can be accessed here: https://secureservercdn.net/198.71.233.107/l8z.2c6.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Precautionary-Measures.pdf.

A coalition of United Nations (UN) human rights experts also issued an unusual joint appeal calling for clemency in Mrs. Montgomery’s case.

“Ms. Montgomery was the victim of an extreme level of physical and sexual abuse throughout her life against which the State never provided protection and for which it failed to offer remedies. She suffered from several mental health conditions which the State failed to care for,” the experts said.

“Shamefully, Ms. Montgomery’s years of sexual abuse and State’s neglect were further compounded by the gender discrimination she faced, pervasive at all stages of the capital proceedings against her.”

The statement was signed by UN Experts on Violence Against Women; Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions; the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; Extreme Poverty and Human Rights; and the Working Group on Discrimination Against Women and Girls.

The letter from the coalition of UN experts can be accessed here: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=26559&LangID=E.

These international experts join more than 1,000 organizations and individuals—including former prosecutors and organizations that combat domestic violence and child sex trafficking—who have written to President Trump asking him to commute Mrs. Montgomery’s death sentence.

The letters from over 1000 organizations and advocates can be accessed here: https://tinyurl.com/y6kethld

The Inter-American Commission’s ruling came in response to a petition filed by Cornell Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic. The petition argued that the United States has violated several international legal obligations in Mrs. Montgomery’s case, including her right to be free from gender discrimination, her right to a fair trial, and her right to humane treatment. The petition also argues that Mrs. Montgomery cannot be executed because of her severe mental illness, including a dissociative disorder and complex post-traumatic stress disorder.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is an organ of the Organization of American States (OAS) that has the power to review violations of human rights in the United States. The United States has been a member of the OAS since 1951 and accepts the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Commission in death penalty cases. The petition filed by the Cornell Clinic can be found at https://secureservercdn.net/198.71.233.107/l8z.2c6.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/IACHR-Petition.pdf.

For more information, please contact: Laura.Burstein@squirepb.com, (202) 669-3411 or go to

www.savelisa.org.

November 23rd

ATTORNEY STATEMENT: DESPITE LISA MONTGOMERY’S SEVERE MENTAL ILLNESS AND LIFETIME OF TRAUMA, FED. GOVERNMENT RESCHEDULES HER EXECUTION

(November 23, 2020) After a federal court ordered a temporary delay to allow her attorneys to recover from COVID-19, the federal government has rescheduled for January 12, 2021 the execution of Lisa Montgomery, a person with severe mental illness and a history of horrific trauma who is the only woman under a federal death sentence.

Mrs. Montgomery’s mental health has been deteriorating since the government first set her execution date. She is being held under extremely harsh conditions, dressed in a “suicide smock,” given only a crayon to write with, and threatened with the loss of her underwear if she exhibits any distress. Even as her attorneys are still recovering from severe COVID-19, they are trying to monitor her fragile mental state and prepare a clemency petition that provides a full picture of how her lifetime of suffering physical, emotional, and sexual abuse – including being trafficked by her own mother and repeatedly gang raped – resulted in the dissociative disorder that led to her commission of the crime.

Below is a statement from Sandra Babcock, one of Mrs. Montgomery’s attorneys:

“Lisa Montgomery is a person with severe mental illness, and numerous experts have concluded that her crime was the product of a psychotic episode. It is difficult to grasp the extremity of the horrors Lisa suffered from her earliest childhood, including being raped by her stepfather, handed off to his friends for their use, sold to groups of adult men by her own mother and repeatedly gang raped, and relentlessly beaten and neglected. No one intervened to help Lisa, though many knew what was happening to her.

“In the grip of a psychotic break, Lisa killed a pregnant woman and took the baby. This was a terrible crime, but Lisa took full responsibility and offered to plead guilty and accept life imprisonment with no possibility of release. Yet the federal government insisted on seeking the death penalty, and prosecutors brushed off what little her lawyers told the jury about her history as an “abuse excuse. Now, despite Lisa’s deteriorating mental health and a much deeper understanding of the trauma she endured, the government plans to kill her. No other woman has been executed for a similar crime, because most prosecutors have recognized that it is inevitably the product of trauma and mental illness.

“Executing Lisa Montgomery would be yet another injustice inflicted on a woman who has known a lifetime of mistreatment.”

Sandra L. Babcock, Clinical Professor of Law, Cornell Law School
November 23, 2020

November 19th

BREAKING: U.S. District Judge Randolph D. Moss has enjoined the federal government from executing Lisa Montgomery, a severely traumatized and mentally ill person who is the only woman on federal death row, until her lawyers recover from COVID-19 and can prepare her clemency application.

The injunction was entered in a lawsuit filed on Mrs. Montgomery’s behalf by Cornell Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic, arguing that Mrs. Montgomery’s longtime lawyers could not complete her clemency application by the November 15 deadline because they contracted COVID-19 while traveling to visit her and are suffering debilitating symptoms. The lawsuit also explained that the pandemic affects more than counsel, because the experts familiar with Mrs. Montgomery’s mental health history cannot travel to assess her current condition and thus cannot assist in the clemency process. Judge Moss’s order blocks the government from executing Mrs. Montgomery until December 31, 2020.

Below is a statement from Sandra L. Babcock, one of the lawyers representing Mrs. Montgomery in this action:

“The district court’s ruling gives Lisa Montgomery a meaningful opportunity to prepare and present a clemency application after her attorneys recover from COVID. Mrs. Montgomery’s case presents compelling grounds for clemency, including her history as a victim of gang rape, incest, and child sex trafficking, as well as her severe mental illness. She will now have the opportunity to present this evidence to the President with a request that he commute her sentence to life imprisonment.”

– Sandra L. Babcock, Clinical Professor of Law, Cornell Law School
– November 19, 2020

Judge Moss’ Memorandum opinion granting a stay can be accessed here: https://tinyurl.com/y29t28mg

Stay order is here: https://tinyurl.com/y2gdn2wx

For more information, please contact: Laura.Burstein@squirepb.com, (202) 669-3411, @LauraBurstein1.

November 12th

For Immediate Release

Contact: Laura Burstein, Laura.Burstein@squirepb.com, (202) 669-3411, @LauraBurstein1

BREAKING: AS LISA MONTGOMERY’S EXECUTION LOOMS, HER LAWYERS HAVE CONTRACTED COVID-19

NEW LAWSUIT SEEKS RESTRAINING ORDER TO ENSURE THEY CAN PREPARE CLEMENCY APPLICATION FOR THEIR SEVERELY MENTALLY ILL CLIENT

(Thursday, November 12, 2020) In a lawsuit filed today, attorneys for Lisa Montgomery, a severely traumatized and mentally ill person facing execution on December 8 [11/23/2020 UPDATE: Lisa’s execution has been rescheduled to January 12, 2021.], reveal that as a result of traveling to visit their client they have contracted COVID-19 and are experiencing debilitating symptoms.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by Cornell Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic, seeks a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to “preserve Mrs. Montgomery’s rights to access a clemency proceeding under conditions that allow her untrammeled access to counsel and expert assistance” (p.3 from Memo in Support of Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and PI, which is pasted at bottom).

The lawsuit explains that the Trump Administration has rejected the attorneys’ request for a reprieve due to their illness and asks the court to prevent Mrs. Montgomery from being executed until they can effectively prepare and submit her clemency application. As the lawsuit states:

“Mrs. Montgomery’s lawyers cannot represent her because they are seriously ill, through no fault of their own. On the contrary, they are sick because Defendant Barr recklessly scheduled Mrs. Montgomery’s execution in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. 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” (p.7).

Mrs. Montgomery suffers from several mental disorders that frequently cause her to lose touch with reality. She is also a survivor of extreme trauma, including multiple gang rapes. Her longtime post-conviction attorneys, Assistant Federal Public Defenders Kelley Henry and Amy Harwell, have spent many years building a trusting attorney-client relationship with Mrs. Montgomery and closely monitoring her fragile mental health.

As the lawsuit describes, the Department of Justice announced Mrs. Montgomery’s execution date on October 16 with no notice to her attorneys. At that time, the COVID-19 pandemic was raging, and infection rates have now reached an all-time high.

Mrs. Montgomery’s lawyers were advised that her clemency application was due on November 15, just 30 days after the execution date was set.

But, as the lawsuit explains, the COVID-19 pandemic is making it impossible for Mrs. Montgomery’s lawyers to complete her clemency application by November 15. Mrs. Montgomery’s mental illness is a critically important issue relevant to a request that President Trump commute her sentence to life without parole, yet the mental health experts who are familiar with her history cannot travel to evaluate her current mental health status due to the pandemic.

Attorneys Harwell and/or Henry visited Mrs. Montgomery on October 19 and 26 and November 2. They discovered that her mental health quickly deteriorated after she learned of her execution date. She was distraught about the conditions of her confinement: she had been placed in a suicide cell and her underwear had been taken away. As a victim of repeated rape, incest, and child sex trafficking, the loss of her underwear was especially traumatic. Henry and Harwell spent hours trying to calm her, explain the status of her case, and ascertain her current mental status.

These visits involved air travel from Nashville, Tennessee to Fort Worth, Texas as well as the use of rental cars and hotels, and interaction with prison staff in addition to the many travelers and employees they encountered along the way. Harwell began experiencing COVID-19 symptoms on November 5, and Henry lost her sense of smell the next day. Both have since tested positive for the virus and are experiencing debilitating symptoms, including overwhelming fatigue, headaches, chills, sweats, gastro-intestinal distress, inability to focus, and impaired thinking and judgment. They have been ordered by their doctors to strictly quarantine (p.2-3).

With just days left to complete Mrs. Montgomery’s clemency application and her mental state rapidly deteriorating, neither attorney can visit her. Nor can they complete the necessary work given their exhaustion and compromised thinking. No other attorney has the level of familiarity with this complex case to take over the clemency work at this late stage. Thus, unless the court issues a restraining order, “Mrs. Montgomery will suffer irreparable injury. for she will be deprived of any meaningful opportunity for review of her clemency request” (p.8-9).

Clemency is intended to serve as a ‘fail-safe’ protection against miscarriages of justice,” the lawsuit explains, and the public interest is served by ensuring “that before the Government carries out an execution, it has afforded the prisoner a fair opportunity to demonstrate that she is deserving of mercy” (p.8).A restraining order is essential to allow Mrs. Montgomery’s legal team adequate time to recover from COVID-19 and to complete her clemency request.

On November 11, letters in support of Mrs. Montgomery’s anticipated clemency request were submitted to President Trump, signed by over 1000 supporters including current and former prosecutors, leading mental health organizations, and advocates working to stop human trafficking, end violence against women and children, and protect abused and neglected children.

Memo in Support of Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction: https://tinyurl.com/y6slc3d5

Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction: https://tinyurl.com/yxnkz4pu

Clemency Complaint: https://tinyurl.com/y4adjzvp

Press Release of Over 1,000 Advocates Calling on President Trump to Commute Death Sentence of Lisa Montgomery: https://tinyurl.com/y6kethld

For more information, contact Laura Burstein, Laura.Burstein@squirepb.com, (202) 669-3411, @LauraBurstein1.

 

November 11th

Contact: Laura.Burstein@squirepb.com, (202) 669-3411, @LauraBurstein1
“Lisa’s Song” is here: https://youtu.be/okWfnh3pDcA

OVER ONE THOUSAND SUPPORTERS CALL ON PRESIDENT TRUMP TO COMMUTE DEATH SENTENCE OF LISA MONTGOMERY, MENTALLY ILL VICTIM OF TRAFFICKING AND HORRIFIC ABUSE SCHEDULED FOR DEC. 8 FED. EXECUTION

[11/23/2020 UPDATE: Lisa’s execution has been rescheduled to January 12, 2021.]

Current and former prosecutors, anti-violence advocates, anti-trafficking organizations, advocates for abused and neglected children, and mental health advocates all say executing Lisa Montgomery would be unconscionable

In letters delivered today, a broad coalition of current and former prosecutors, anti-sex trafficking and anti-domestic violence groups, child advocates and mental health groups is urging President Trump to stop the execution of Lisa Montgomery, a woman with severe mental illness who suffered relentless physical, emotional, and sexual abuse including being trafficked by her own mother. The federal government plans to execute Mrs. Montgomery on December 8 unless the President or a court intervenes.

“Lisa’s experiences as a victim of horrific sexual violence, physical abuse, and being trafficked as a child do not excuse her crime,” write a group of 41 current and former prosecutors. “But her history provides us with an important explanation that would influence any sentencing recommendation we made as prosecutors.”

The prosecutors stress that Lisa’s history “is not an ‘abuse excuse’ as the jury was told at her trial,” and that evidence of a defendant’s childhood trauma is “critically relevant to determining the appropriate punishment for a serious crime.”

Letter from 41 current and former prosecutors can be accessed here.

In a separate letter, two former prosecutors who prosecuted similar cases involving attacks on pregnant women agree: “These crimes are inevitably the product of serious mental illness. Women who commit such crimes also are likely to have been victimized themselves. These are important factors that make death sentences inappropriate.”

Letter from two former prosecutors who prosecuted similar cases involving attacks on pregnant women can be accessed here.

The prosecutors’ call for clemency is joined by hundreds of organizations that advocate for women, children, and people with mental illness.

A group of 800 organizations and individuals working to combat violence against women stress that Lisa was “consistently failed by people and systems that should have helped her,” and that she “became severely mentally ill by the time she committed her crime.” In 2004, in the grip of a psychotic break, Lisa killed a pregnant woman and took her baby.

Letter from 800 organizations and individuals working to combat violence against women can be accessed here.

They point to the sexual abuse Lisa suffered beginning as a child when her stepfather repeatedly raped her and allowed his friends to gang-rape her, followed by being trafficked by her mother to adult men for sex in her early teens. “Lisa developed a dissociative disorder and complex post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the repeated anal, oral, and vaginal rapes she suffered by the men to whom her mother trafficked her.” And although Lisa told people about her abuse, they “failed to investigate or report.”

A group of 100 organizations and individuals working to combat human trafficking similarly urge the President to take into account Lisa’s history of being trafficked by her own mother, and the impact of the abuses she suffered on her mental health, as “critical context that explains why she committed these acts, which might otherwise seem incomprehensible.”

Letter from 100 organizations and individuals working to combat human trafficking can be accessed here.

They also note that current law provides much stronger protections to victims of trafficking. “Had any of these laws been in effect when Lisa was a child or young adult suffering human trafficking, our legal systems would have offered more meaningful intervention.”

A group of 40 child advocates whose work is devoted to protecting abused, victimized, and abandoned children highlight the tragedy of how “no one stepped in to save Lisa. Lisa was repeatedly abused and exploited by the very adults she turned to for protection – first her own mother and stepfather, then her partners.”

Letter from 40 child advocates whose work is devoted to protecting abused, victimized, and abandoned children can be accessed here.

They point to the “many missed opportunities to intervene and stop Lisa’s suffering,” which might well have prevented the crime from ever happening. Lisa’s older sister also suffered horrific abuse in the home but was removed by social services; Lisa was left behind, and though people in power learned of the abuse they did nothing to stop it. “We know from our work with abused children that being unable to escape a cycle of abuse exacts a terrible mental toll,” these child advocates write. “This was sadly true for Lisa. Her crime reflects the desperation, shame, and hopelessness that many victims of extreme child abuse feel.”

Three of the nation’s leading advocacy organizations for people with serious mental illness and their families also call for clemency based on Lisa’s mental illness and neurological disorders. “We believe that Mrs. Montgomery, who acted in the grip of a psychotic episode, should not be subject to the death penalty due to her brain damage and severe mental illness.”

Letter from three of the nation’s leading advocacy organizations for people with serious mental illness and their families can be accessed here.

They describe the combined impact on Lisa’s functioning of organic brain damage resulting from her mother’s heavy alcohol use during pregnancy, a genetic predisposition to serious mental illness inherited from both parents, and the psychological effects of extreme and pervasive trauma. “Multiple experts have concluded that Mrs. Montgomery’s crime was the product of her mental illness and brain injuries,” they write. And “even today, her grip on reality is fragile, maintained only with a complex regimen of psychotropic medications that she never received before being incarcerated.”

These mental health advocates also recognize that “the stress of being given an execution date, removed from the institution where she has lived for many years, and transferred to a men’s prison for execution will trigger her psychosis and cause her mental health to deteriorate dramatically.”

Such concerns are, in fact, being borne out, and a new lawsuit argues that the conditions under which the Bureau of Prisons is housing Lisa in advance of her execution are aggravating her mental illness. For example, the BOP has her under 24-hour observation, allowing male guards to watch her use the toilet. The prison also took away her access to underwear, allowing her to have panties again only if she “behaved” by not crying or otherwise exhibiting distress. For a victim of multiple rapes like Lisa, these conditions are especially damaging.

A powerful new song and video about Lisa’s story are available here.

For more information, or to speak with co-signers to the letters or to one of Lisa’s attorneys, please contact: Laura.Burstein@squirepb.com, (202) 669-3411, @LauraBurstein1.

Case Documents

Petition on Behalf of Lisa Montgomery to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

Memo in Support of a Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction

Clemency Complaint

Placeholder Clemency Petition

Memorandum Opinion Granting Stay

Stay Order

Inter-American Commission Ruling on Stay of Execution

UN experts call for clemency for Lisa Montgomery after US Government reschedules execution

Motion to Clarify and/or Modify Preliminary Injunction Order

Memorandum Opinion Granting Stay – 12/24/20

Petition Arguing Lisa Montgomery is Mentally Incompetent to be Executed

Petition for Executive Clemency

Indiana District Court Order Staying Execution to Hold Competency Hearing

D.C. Court of Appeals Order Staying Execution to Hear Arguments on Government Violation of Federal Death Penalty Act

Opposition to Application to Vacate Stay of Execution Pending Appeal

Campaign

Statements of Support

Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide

Letter from 41 current and former prosecutors

Letter from two former prosecutors who prosecuted similar cases involving attacks on pregnant women

Letter from 800 organizations and individuals working to combat violence against women

Letter from 100 organizations and individuals working to combat human trafficking

Letter from 40 child advocates whose work is devoted to protecting abused, victimized, and abandoned children

Letter from three of the nation’s leading advocacy organizations for people with serious mental illness and their families

An Open Letter from Sister Helen Prejean to Assistant U.S. Attorneys

Letter to President Trump from Members of the Commission on the Status of Women

Take Action

*We have only DAYS to stop Lisa’s execution. Join our FINAL POWER HOUR on January 11 from 1-3pm EST, the day before Lisa’s scheduled execution. See our Toolkit for more information and suggested posts: https://bit.ly/2XnZBeW.

Other ways you can help #SaveLisa:

Media Inquiries

If you are a member of the media and have an inquiry, please contact Laura Burstein at Laura.Burstein@Squirepb.com.

Media & Publications