A federal judge in Indiana on Monday stayed federal death row inmate Lisa Montgomery’s execution. Judge James Halan of the US District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, granted the stay in order to allow the court to conduct a hearing to determine Montgomery’s competence to be executed.
Protection from execution for incompetent individuals is couched in the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits “cruel and unusual punishment.” A 1986 Supreme Court decision, Ford v. Wainwright, suggested that executing the insane “has questionable retributive value, presents no example to others, and thus has no deterrence value.”
Montgomery was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death in 2007 in violation of 18 USC § 1201(a)(1). Montgomery’s conviction and sentence were affirmed on direct appeal in 2009. A string of further appeals and challenges eventually made their way to the US Supreme Court, which denied review twice in 2020. However, this is the second time her execution has been stayed after initially being set for December 8, 2020.
A future hearing will be conducted to determine Montgomery’s competency to be executed. The Eight Amendment requires that the prisoner “rationally understand” why the state seeks to impose execution.