The United States government in the wee hours of Wednesday January 13, executed the first woman convict after almost seven decades according to media reports.
Convicted murderer Lisa Montgomery’s execution marked the first time the U.S. government has implemented the death sentence for a female prisoner since 1953, according to a reporter serving as a media witness.
She was convicted in 2007 in Missouri for kidnapping and strangling Bobbie Jo Stinnett, then eight months pregnant. Montgomery cut Stinnett’s fetus from the womb. The child survived.
Some of Stinnett’s relatives have traveled to witness Montgomery’s execution, the US Justice Department said.
There were legal challenges filed across multiple federal courts on whether to allow execution of Montgomery, 52, who had initially been scheduled to be killed by lethal injections of pentobarbital, a powerful barbiturate on Tuesday in the Justice Department’s execution chamber at its prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.
The execution was cleared by the Supreme Court which overturned a stay.
Kelley Henry, Montgomery’s lawyer called the pending execution, “vicious, unlawful, and unnecessary exercise of authoritarian power.”
“No one can credibly dispute Mrs. Montgomery’s longstanding debilitating mental disease – diagnosed and treated for the first time by the Bureau of Prisons’ own doctors,” Henry said in a statement.
Montgomery’s lawyers had asked for President Donald Trump’s clemency last week, saying she committed her crime after a childhood in which she was abused and repeatedly raped by her stepfather and his friends, and so should instead face life in prison.
It is one of three executions the U.S. Department of Justice had scheduled for the final full week of President Donald Trump’s administration. Two other executions scheduled for Thursday and Friday have been delayed, for now at least, by a federal judge in Washington, to allow them to recover from COVID-19.
Federal executions had been on pause for 17 years and only three men had been executed by the federal government since 1963 until the practice was resumed last year under Trump, whose outspoken support for capital punishment long predates his entry into politics.
Although death sentences are common in East Africa, executions are only rampant in South Sudan according to Amnesty International.
Since gaining independence in 2011, the country has executed at least 43 people. The 11 recorded in 2019 was its highest yearly figure so far. They included seven men executed in February 2019, three of whom were from the same family. The authorities did not even inform the men’s relatives ahead of the execution.
In September, four more people were executed, one of whom was aged 17 when convicted and sentenced. This goes against international human rights law and South Sudan’s own constitution, which prohibits the use of the death penalty against people who were children at the time of the crime.
Death sentences in sub-Saharan Africa soared to 325 in 2019, a 53% increase on the 212 in 2018. This was due to increases in ten countries: Kenya, Malawi, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Overall, death sentences were handed down in 18 countries in 2019, one more than in 2018.
© East Africa Daily & Agencies