United States

Lawyers for U.S. death row's lone woman say she was tortured, seeks Trump's clemency

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Jan 5 (Reuters) - Lawyers for Lisa Montgomery, a convicted murderer and the only woman on federal death row, asked U.S. President Donald Trump to halt her execution scheduled for next week, saying she committed her crime after a lifetime of being abused and raped.

Montgomery, due to be killed by lethal injections of a barbiturate on Jan. 12, was convicted in 2007 in Missouri for kidnapping and strangling Bobbie Jo Stinnett, then eight months pregnant. Montgomery then cut Stinnett's fetus from the womb. The child survived.

Montgomery suffered sexual abuse and torture at the hands of her stepfather and mother that Montgomery's lawyers and her sister, who was also raped in their childhood home, compared to a horror movie. In a nearly 7,000-page clemency petition filed on Tuesday, they asked Trump to commute Montgomery's sentence to life in prison.

"Broken before she was born, Lisa Montgomery's life was filled with torture, terror, failure, and betrayal," the lawyers wrote, saying Montgomery was born brain-damaged because of her mother's alcoholism.

Montgomery is held at the Federal Medical Center in Carswell, Texas, a prison for inmates with mental illness.

Trump is a long-time exponent of the death penalty, and has allowed more executions in a year than any other U.S. president has done since the 19th century. His administration revived the punishment in the federal system in 2020 after a 17-year hiatus even as the novel coronavirus spread to infect prison employees, inmates' lawyers and two other inmates facing execution. President-elect Joe Biden has said he will seek to abolish the death penalty. He takes office on Jan. 20.

The lawyers have said it is wrong to execute Montgomery because of her mental illness and because other women who have committed similar crimes did not face the death penalty.

Montgomery, now 52, was abused by her stepfather, who built a room in the back of a trailer where they lived in which he and his friends raped her from about the age of 11 on and where her mother pimped her for sex, Montgomery's lawyers said.

Diane Mattingly, Montgomery's older sister, told reporters at a briefing that she was also repeatedly raped, sometimes with Montgomery in the same room, until authorities removed her to foster care.

"So many people let her down," Mattingly said. "Yes, I started out the same way, but I went into a place where I was loved and cared for and shown self worth. I had a good foundation. Lisa did not and she broke. She literally broke."

Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; editing by Grant McCool

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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