Execution of only female federal prisoner on death row halted

The execution of the only woman on federal death row has been halted after a federal judge said the Justice Department unlawfully rescheduled the execution. 

Lisa Montgomery had been scheduled for execution this month, but U.S. District Court Judge Randolph Moss delayed the execution after Montgomery’s attorneys contracted the coronavirus while visiting their client, The Associated Press reported

Moss prohibited the Bureau of Prisons from carrying out the execution before the end of the year and officials rescheduled the execution for Jan. 12, but Moss ruled on Wednesday that the agency was also prohibited from rescheduling the date while a stay was in place, according to the AP. 

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“The Court, accordingly, concludes that the Director’s order setting a new execution date while the Court’s stay was in effect was ‘not in accordance with law,’” Moss reportedly wrote. 

A spokesperson for the Justice Department declined to comment. 

Based on the order, the execution date may not be rescheduled until at least Jan. 1, meaning the date may be pushed to after Inauguration Day when President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenHouse Democrat threatens to vote against party's spending bill if HBCUs don't get more federal aid Overnight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Haitians stuck in Texas extend Biden's immigration woes MORE’s administration takes over because Justice Department guidelines state a prisoner must receive a notice of at least 20 days in advance of the execution date. 

Montgomery was convicted in 2007 of the 2004 strangulation of a woman who was eight months pregnant at the time. Montgomery removed the unborn child, who survived, from Bobbie Jo Stinnet’s womb after the murder. 

A spokesperson for Biden told the AP the president-elect “opposes the death penalty now and in the future” and would work during his presidency to end its use in office. 

But Biden’s representatives have not said whether the execution would be paused immediately once Biden is in office, the AP noted. 

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Dozens of Democrats signed a letter led by Rep. Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyHaitians stuck in Texas extend Biden's immigration woes Advocates 'in utter disbelief' after Biden resumes Haitian repatriations Democratic bill would force Fed to defund fossil fuels MORE (D-Mass.) earlier this month calling on Biden’s administration to make abolishing the death penalty a priority once he is in office. 

Additionally, a group of Democratic senators are pushing for an investigation into the Trump administration's decision to end a 17-year hiatus on federal executions this year. 

The federal government executed more prisoners in 2020 than all of the states that still carry out the death penalty combined, according to a recent report by the Death Penalty Information Center. 

Updated at 1:31 p.m.