First US federal execution of woman in decades

First US federal execution of woman in decades
Lisa Montgomery, 52, has been imprisoned for 16 years after she killed a pregnant woman in order to steal her fetus. (File/AFP)
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Updated 13 January 2021

First US federal execution of woman in decades

First US federal execution of woman in decades
  • Montgomery, 52, murdered an expectant mother to steal her baby
  • Trump, like his many of his conservative constituents, is a strong supporter of the death penalty and ignored a plea for clemency from Montgomery’s supporters

WASHINGTON: An American woman was put to death by lethal injection Wednesday, becoming the first female to be executed by US federal authorities in nearly seven decades.
Lisa Montgomery’s execution came in the final days of the government of US President Donald Trump, which pushed forward with her execution despite a legal battle that the Supreme Court ended with a ruling in the early hours of Wednesday.
Montgomery, 52, murdered an expectant mother to steal her baby, though she had sought a stay of execution on the grounds she was mentally ill.
She was the 11th person to be put to death after the Trump administration successfully fought to resume federal executions in July following a 17-year hiatus.
Her lawyer Kelley Henry, in a scathing statement, called the decision — the first for a female inmate since 1953 — a “vicious, unlawful, and unnecessary exercise of authoritarian power.”
“The craven bloodlust of a failed administration was on full display tonight,” Henry said.
“Everyone who participated in the execution of Lisa Montgomery should feel shame.”
The US Supreme Court voted 6-3 in favor of lifting a last minute stay of execution and allowing Montgomery’s execution to proceed despite doubts about her mental state.
The court’s three liberal dissenters voted to grant her a stay of execution.
Montgomery’s defenders did not deny the seriousness of her crime: in 2004, she killed a pregnant 23-year-old to steal her baby.
Unable to have a child, Montgomery carefully identified her victim — dog breeder Bobbie Jo Stinnett — online.
Under the guise of buying a puppy, Montgomery went to Stinnett’s home, where she strangled her and cut the baby from her body. The baby survived.
In 2007 she was convicted of kidnapping resulting in death and handed a death sentence.
Her defenders believe that she suffered from severe mental health issues stemming from abuse she suffered as a child. She did not understand the meaning of her sentence, they said, a prerequisite for execution.
On Monday evening, a federal judge offered the defense a brief lifeline, ordering a stay of execution to allow time to assess Montgomery’s mental state.
“The record before the Court contains ample evidence that Ms. Montgomery’s current mental state is so divorced from reality that she cannot rationally understand the government’s rationale for her execution,” the ruling stated.
But an appeals court overturned that decision on Tuesday, leaving it up to the US Supreme Court to decide. It said the execution could go ahead.
Trump, like his many of his conservative constituents, is a strong supporter of the death penalty and ignored a plea for clemency from Montgomery’s supporters.
Democratic Senator Dick Durbin on Monday announced the introduction of legislation to end federal executions.
It could be passed once President-elect Joe Biden takes office next week and Democrats regain control of the Senate.
In addition to Montgomery, two men from the same jail in Indiana, are scheduled for federal execution this week.
Their executions were stayed on Tuesday due to them having contracted Covid-19.

In a statement, Helen Prejean, a Catholic nun known for her activism against the death penalty, spoke over the weekend of federal prosecutors “working all day and through the nights” to counter the appeals of federal inmates.
“You may not have to see the fear or smell the sweat in the execution chamber, but your hand is in this,” Prejean wrote, urging them to prevent the executions being carried out in the week before Biden’s inauguration.
Former guards of the penitentiary in Indiana, where Montgomery was jailed, had also written to the Justice Department to request that the executions be postponed until the penitentiary staff are vaccinated against Covid-19.
Between the executioners, guards, witnesses, and lawyers, an execution assembles dozens of people in a closed environment, which is conducive to the spread of the virus.
US states, including the deeply conservative Texas, have suspended executions for months due to the pandemic — unlike the federal government, which has pushed to carry out many before Trump leaves power.


New migrant caravan leaves Honduras in pursuit of American dream

New migrant caravan leaves Honduras in pursuit of American dream
Updated 16 January 2021

New migrant caravan leaves Honduras in pursuit of American dream

New migrant caravan leaves Honduras in pursuit of American dream
  • The 3,000 or so migrants plan to walk thousands of kilometers through Central America
  • Guatemala, Mexico and Honduras have an agreement with the US to stop north-bound migratory flows

SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras: Some 3,000 people left Honduras on foot Friday in the latest migrant caravan hoping to find a welcome, and a better life, in the US under President-elect Joe Biden.
Seeking to escape poverty, unemployment, gang and drug violence and the aftermath of two devastating hurricanes, the migrants plan to walk thousands of kilometers through Central America.
But they will have to overcome a rash of travel restrictions in Guatemala and Mexico long before they even make it to the American border.
The quest is likely to end in heartbreak for many, with American authorities already having warned off the group that includes people of all ages and some entire families.
“I want to work for my house and a car, to work and live a dignified life with my family,” said Melvin Fernandez, a taxi driver from the Caribbean port city of La Ceiba in Honduras, who set off on the long journey with his wife and three children, aged 10, 15 and 22.
Most of the group set off shortly after 4 a.m. (1000 GMT) from the transport terminal of San Pedro Sula, Honduras’ second-largest city, headed for Agua Caliente on the Guatemalan border some 260 km (162 miles) away.
The migrants walked along side roads wearing backpacks, some holding the Honduras flag, many with small children in their arms, and most with facemasks to protect against the coronavirus.
The migrants say they hope to catch lifts from passing motorists or truckers or, failing that, walk the entire way.
To enter Guatemala, the first country on their route, however, the migrants will have to show travel documents and a negative coronavirus test — requirements that not all of them meet.
“We are leaving with a broken heart, because in my case, I leave my family, my husband and my three children behind,” 36-year-old Jessenia Ramirez told AFP.
“We are going in search of a better future, a job so we can send a few cents back home. We are trusting in God to open our path, Biden is supposed to give work opportunities to those who are there (on American soil).”
The travelers are hopeful that Biden, who takes over the US presidency on Wednesday, will be more flexible than his predecessor Donald Trump.
Biden has promised “a fair and humane immigration system” and pledged aid to tackle the root causes of poverty and violence that drive Central Americans to the United States.
But Mark Morgan, acting Commissioner of the US Customs and Border Protection, warned the group last week not to “waste your time and money.”
The US commitment to the “rule of law and public health” is not affected by the change in administration, he said in a statement.
More than a dozen caravans, some with thousands of migrants, have set off from Honduras since October 2018.
But all have run up against thousands of US border guards and soldiers under Trump, who has characterized immigrants from Mexico as “rapists” who were “bringing drugs” and other criminal activity to the United States.
Guatemala, Mexico and Honduras have an agreement with the United States to stop north-bound migratory flows from the south of the continent.
Honduras has mobilized 7,000 police officers to supervise the latest caravan on its journey to the Guatemalan border.
Guatemala declared seven departments in a state of “alert,” giving security forces the authority to “forcibly dissolve” any type of public groupings.
On Friday, officials said they had already returned about 100 Hondurans who began the trip from San Pedro Sula on Thursday and entered Guatemala illegally, without Covid tests. Another 600-odd migrants who arrived at the border were prevented from entering, Guatemalan police reported.
Hundreds of police and soldiers manned three border crossings to stop the caravan. Many wore gas masks and carried shields and truncheons.
On the Honduran side, in the town of El Florido, there were signs of desperation.
“We will not move until they let us cross. We will stage a hunger strike,” said Dania Hinestrosa, 23, waiting with her young daughter.
“We have no work or food. That is why I am traveling to the United States,” she said.
Mexican authorities said late Thursday that 500 immigration officers were being deployed to the Guatemalan border in anticipation of the caravan’s arrival.
But the migrants are keeping the end goal in sight.
Among them, 28-year-old Eduardo Lanza said he dreamed of living in a country where people of different sexual orientations can live with dignity, “respect... and a job opportunity.”
Norma Pineda, 51, said last year’s hurricanes left her “on the street.”
“We are leaving because here is no work, no state support, we need food, clothes...” she told AFP.