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Lisa Montgomery has become the first woman on US federal death row to be executed since 1953

Lisa Montgomery, who was executed this week. Source: Attorneys for Lisa Montgomery

The execution of convicted murderer Lisa Montgomery is the first time the US government has implemented the death sentence for a female prisoner since 1953.

Content warning: This article contains references to child sexual abuse.

The US government has executed convicted murderer Lisa Montgomery, the only woman on federal death row, after the Supreme Court cleared the last hurdle for her execution by overturning a stay.

Montgomery's execution marked the first time the US government has implemented the death sentence for a female prisoner since 1953.

Challenges were fought across multiple federal courts on whether to allow execution of Montgomery, 52, who had initially been scheduled to be killed by lethal injections of pentobarbital, a powerful barbiturate, on Tuesday (local time) in the Justice Department's execution chamber at its prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Kelley Henry, Montgomery's lawyer, in scathing remarks, called the execution, "vicious, unlawful, and unnecessary exercise of authoritarian power". 

"No one can credibly dispute Mrs. Montgomery's longstanding debilitating mental disease - diagnosed and treated for the first time by the Bureau of Prisons' own doctors," Ms Henry said in a statement.

Montgomery was convicted in 2007 in Missouri for kidnapping and strangling Bobbie Jo Stinnett, then eight months pregnant. Montgomery cut Ms Stinnett's fetus from the womb. The child survived.

Some of Ms Stinnett's relatives travelled to witness Montgomery's execution, the Justice Department said.

Montgomery's lawyers asked for US President Donald Trump's clemency last week, saying she committed her crime after a childhood in which she was abused and repeatedly raped by her stepfather and his friends, and so should instead have faced life in prison.

From the age of 15, she was allegedly repeatedly sold for sex by her mother in exchange for utilities and services.

"She would ask the other children to leave the trailer so that the plumber, the electrician, and the man who delivered the propane gas could rape Lisa," a report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights states.

In other instances, she was allegedly gang-raped by her stepfather's friends who would allegedly urinate on her afterwards.

This ordeal led to complex post-traumatic stress disorder and a dissociative condition, supporters said.

"Lisa’s abuse doesn’t excuse her crime. But it does provide an explanation for how she came to commit that crime, a context for trying to understand what otherwise might seem incomprehensible," an open letter to Mr Trump in November, signed by family violence and mental health organisations, read.

"A victim of trauma with serious mental health issues, including dissociative disorder directly linked to her experiences of sexual violence, Lisa’s mental illness is inextricable from the crime she committed."

A spokesman for the European Union's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said that Brussels "deeply regrets" the execution.

"The EU had called for clemency to be granted to Lisa Montgomery taking into consideration international law and internationally accepted minimum standards that should be respected regarding people with mental disorders," the statement said.

"The EU calls on the US administration to reverse its decision to carry out the remaining federal-level executions during the last days of the current administration."

Montgomery was one of three executions the US Department of Justice had scheduled for the final full week of Mr Trump's administration.

Two other executions scheduled for Thursday and Friday have been delayed, for now at least, by a federal judge in Washington, to allow them to recover from COVID-19.

Federal executions had been on pause for 17 years and only three men had been executed by the federal government since 1963 until the practice was resumed last year under Mr Trump, whose outspoken support for capital punishment long predates his entry into politics.

Readers seeking support can contact Lifeline crisis support on 13 11 14, Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 and Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 (for young people aged 5 to 25). More information is available at Beyond and

Anyone seeking information or support relating to sexual abuse can contact Bravehearts on 1800 272 831 or Blue Knot on 1300 657 380.

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