The U.S. government has scheduled the first execution of a woman in nearly 70 years, setting a Dec. 8 date to put Lisa Montgomery to death. This will be the eighth federal execution since mid-July after a 17-year break in the capitalist rulers’ use of this barbaric punishment.
All these executions take place by lethal injection of the drug pentobarbital at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana. This drug attacks the brain and central nervous system and is also used to euthanize animals.
Montgomery, from Melvern, Kansas, is the only woman on federal death row and has been there since 2008. She was convicted for the 2004 killing of Bobbie Jo Stinnett, who was eight months pregnant. Montgomery cut the baby girl from her abdomen and attempted to pass it off as her own child.
“Lisa Montgomery has long accepted full responsibility for her crime,” her attorney, Kelley Henry, told the press. “But her severe mental illness and the devastating impact of her childhood trauma make executing her a profound injustice.” Henry said this included being sex-trafficked as a child by her mother and gang-raped by adult men. All attempts by Montgomery to appeal her conviction and sentence have been exhausted.
The last federal execution of a woman occurred in 1953. Ethel Rosenberg and her husband Julius were sent to the electric chair that year, after refusing to admit their “guilt” in return for commutation of their sentence. They were framed up on charges of conspiring to spy for the Soviet Union in the midst of an anti-communist witch hunt.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, 16 women have been executed by state authorities across the country.
The Justice Department also announced that Brandon Bernard will be executed two days after Montgomery is put to death. Bernard was convicted of involvement in the murder of two youth ministers in Texas in 1999, when he had just turned 18. His co-defendant, Christopher Vialva, who was then 19, was executed Sept. 24.
Despite declining public support for the death penalty, the capitalist rulers retain it as a tool to intimidate and terrorize working people, including vanguard workers who set an example by their determined resistance to the rulers’ assaults.
Over the years, capital punishment has been defended by both Democratic and Republican administrations. While President Donald Trump restarted federal executions this year, it was President Bill Clinton who signed the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which added 60 federal crimes punishable by death.
During his 30-plus years in the Senate, Joe Biden consistently backed the use of the death penalty, only changing his position after announcing his candidacy for president.