A judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia ruled Thursday that the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) unlawfully rescheduled Lisa Montgomery’s execution while a stay on her sentence was in place.
Montgomery, the only woman on federal death row in the US, was originally scheduled to be executed on December 8 but her lawyers had “contracted ‘severe’ cases of COVID-19 while traveling to meet with her.” Judge Randolph Moss granted a stay of execution, postponing her execution until at least December 31, so her lawyers had an opportunity to “recover from COVID-19 and to file a clemency petition on Montgomery’s behalf.”
A few days after the order of stay, the BOP rescheduled Montgomery’s execution for January 12. The court found that this was unlawful because “when an execution is postponed in light of a stay, the governing regulation…prevents the Director [of the BOP] from setting a new execution date until after the stay is lifted.”
According to Thursday’s ruling, Montgomery’s execution cannot be rescheduled until after December 31. Justice Department guidelines typically require that inmates on death row receive notice of their execution date at least 20 days in advance. The execution will now likely be scheduled to take place after President-elect Joe Biden takes office.
Biden has criticized the death penalty and is in favor of abolishing it. He has not specified whether he would take immediate action to halt federal executions once he takes office. More than 40 lawmakers have signed a letter encouraging him to take action on his first day in office.
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