Lisa Montgomery: was her death justified?- Jessie Jordan

Since July 2020, Trump administrated 13 executions, 5 of which have occurred in the past month, breaking a 130-year-old tradition to pause executions throughout a presidential transition.

Trump was very clearly a questionable figure of authority, made manifest through his second impeachment and refusal to acknowledge that he lost the presidential election. His ethical stances are horrific, which can be seen through this sudden increase in prisoners on death row being executed; the most controversial being that of Lisa Montgomery on the 13th January 2021.

In 2004, Lisa Montgomery strangled a pregnant woman, and cut out her unborn baby to raise as her own. The woman, Bobby Jo Stinnett, bled to death but the baby survived. When first hearing about this, you may think her punishment is justified, however, it is important to look at much closer details about Lisa:

  • Lisa Montgomery was born with brain damage as a result of her mother overconsuming alcohol during her pregnancy.
  • At the age of 11, she was continually raped by her stepfather with the threat of her younger sister being raped if she refused.
  • Her mother physically and verbally abused her, even killing the family dog with a shovel in front of Lisa.
  • She was sold off to older men for sex by her mother throughout her teenage years, often for hours at a time.
  • She had told a cousin, who worked in law enforcement, of her experiences, but he did not report or acknowledge it.
  • She suffered from severe mental health issues and post traumatic stress disorder after being continually raped.
  • She was forced into marrying her stepbrother at the age of eighteen, who also physically abused and raped her.
  • She was sterilised without consent after giving birth to four children.
  • Once divorced to her stepbrother, he took custody of two of her children, and her second husband threatened to take custody of the other two when she lied about being pregnant a fifth time.
  • She suffered from a long-term reality distortion which often removed her from real world situations.
Bobby Jo Stinnet- the woman murdered by Lisa Montgomery.

crime scene of the murder

When looking at Lisa’s childhood, you can understand how one of these horrific events may drive her to commit the crime she did, and the fear of losing her children very clearly drove her to the killing of Bobby Jo. Her clear deterioration of mental health should have been used by her defence lawyer, which could have removed her from being capitally punished. Her defence team had, at one point, contained Judy Clarke, an attorney well known for defending those with extreme mental illnesses, helping them to avoid the death sentence. However, a highly misogynistic defence lawyer on the team, Dave Owen, could not take lead or direction from a female lawyer, and persuaded the federal judge to remove her from the case. As a consequence of this, the defence team were incapable of analysing the full extent of Lisa’s mental state, so she was put on death row.

Lisa at the age where her stepfather started abusing her

There is no justifying crime or murder, but there is justifying the actions of someone who’s mental wellbeing has degraded so much through a life of abuse and torture. This makes me ask the question as to how the US legal system was so easily manipulated into agreeing on the execution of a woman so far beyond mental stability, and why she was allowed to be executed at the administration of Trump during the presidential transition, despite losing the people’s vote.  

Joe Biden, the current president of the United States, is looking to ban the death penalty, thinking it immoral and inhumane, yet Trump seemed to be more eager than ever to prove himself by speeding up the process of those on death row. This could perhaps have been one final attempt of Trump asserting his power, using it, as always, to elevate his ego rather than to benefit his country.

 Although Lisa Montgomery did commit an awful crime, and deserved to be punished, did she deserve to be executed?

 I don’t think so.

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