A federal judge delayed the execution of a woman, the only one on so-called ‘death row’, after two of her lawyers, who are public defenders in Tennessee, fell seriously ill after contracting COVID-19.
Federal Public Defenders Kelley Henry and Amy Harwell, based in the Central District of Tennessee, they asked the court to delay the execution after each of them became infected with COVID-19 during the latest efforts to litigate the Montgomery case, a report from USA Today.
His symptoms have limited his ability to petition President Donald Trump for clemency, according to the judge’s documents.
In his brief, Moss said that while his order will temporarily suspend the execution “it will not prohibit any government official, including the president,” from taking any action adverse to the clemency request.
The judge noted that if the attorneys cannot file their clemency request by December 24, then they must have another attorney appointed on their behalf.
Barr set the date without telling them
In the lawsuit filed Thursday, attorneys Harwell and Henry noted that because Attorney General William Barr scheduled Montgomery’s execution during the pandemic, it was necessary to travel from Nashville to Texas twice in October and again earlier this month. , after which they ended up being infected with coronavirus.
“Each round trip involved two airplane flights, transit through two airports, hotel stays and interaction with dozens of people, including airline attendants, car rental clerks, passengers and prison guards,” says the document.
According to the document, the two attorneys have “debilitating fatigue” and other symptoms as well, “including headaches, chills, sweats, gastrointestinal problems, inability to concentrate, and impaired thinking and judgment.”
A gruesome crime
Montgomery, now 52, was convicted in 2007 for the kidnapping and strangulation of Bobbie Jo Stinnett, who was eight months pregnant. Montgomery then removed the baby who survived the attack from the womb.
According to prosecutors’ indictment, Montgomery drove from his Kansas home to Stinnett’s home in Skidmore under the pretext of adopting a Terrier puppy. Once inside the home, Montgomery used a rope to strangle Stinnett, who was conscious and trying to defend himself, but her attacker used a kitchen knife to cut her open and remove the girl from the womb.
Montgomery took the newborn with her and tried to pass her off as his own, prosecutors said at her trial.
The Montgomery investigation revealed a lifetime of mental, physical and sexual abuse, as well as severe brain damage.
In prison, he has been administered antipsychotic, antiepileptic and antidepressant medications to help treat his illnesses, court documents indicate.
Advocates indicate that Montgomery’s mental illness is critically important to a request for commutation of the sentence to life in prison without parole. But due to restrictions due to the pandemic, mental health experts have not been able to evaluate it.
“The public interest in seeing justice done lies not only in carrying out the sentence imposed years ago, but also in the legal process leading to possible execution,” Judge Moss wrote in his decision.