Mo. jury recommends death for Lisa Montgomery

Friday, October 26, 2007

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- A jury on Friday decided that a woman convicted of killing an expectant mother and cutting her baby from her womb should receive the death penalty.

Jurors deliberated for more than five hours before recommending the sentence for Lisa Montgomery. Judge Gary Fenner will sentence Montgomery, but had told jurors that he was obligated to abide by their recommendation. A sentencing date has not been set.

Montgomery, 39, was convicted Monday of killing Bobbie Jo Stinnett on Dec. 16, 2004, in the victim's home in the northwest Missouri town of Skidmore. She was arrested the next day in Melvern, Kan., where she was showing off the newborn as her own.

Montgomery wiped her eyes with a tissue as the jury announced its sentencing decision. Her attorney, Fred Duchardt, had his hand on her shoulder.

Fenner had instructed those in the courtroom not to show any reaction when the verdict was announced.

When the jurors were asked if they agreed with the decision, each responded: "Yes, your honor." Afterward, the jury asked to speak to prosecutors and defense attorneys but did not say why.

Lisa Montgomery's husband, Kevin, and his parents were not in the courtroom when the verdict was read but came in as the jurors left. The family then went into another room without speaking to reporters.

U.S. Attorney John Wood planned to discuss the verdict at a 1:30 p.m. CDT news conference.

Prosecutors argued that Stinnett's killing and mutilation is the kind of crime for which capital punishment is intended.

"The death penalty is reserved for the worst crime," federal prosecutor Roseann Ketchmark told the jury during closing arguments Thursday. "This is the worst crime."

Ketchmark argued that Montgomery had violated Stinnett in the "most wicked way possible," then failed to seek medical attention for the infant, who was four weeks shy of her due date.

Defense attorneys asked jurors to spare Montgomery's life, saying she was mentally ill and not aware of what she was doing at the time of the killing.

"I'm not ashamed to ask you all for mercy," Duchardt told the jury. "I ask for it on behalf of Lisa and all the people who love her."

Duchardt said sexual abuse during Montgomery's childhood led to mental illness. He told the jurors that they wouldn't be there had Montgomery had a good upbringing, saying emotional abuse from her mother and sexual abuse from her stepfather "killed Lisa's soul."

Prosecutors, however, said Montgomery was faking mental illness to aid her defense. They also noted that few of the many people who have been sexually abused go on to kill.

Ketchmark told jurors that Montgomery deserved the death penalty because of the heinousness of the crime. She showed jurors crime scene photos highlighting the blows to Stinnett's head, injuries to her elbows, defensive cuts to her hands and strangulation marks.

"Look at the ragged abdominal cuts," she said. "This is vicious. This defendant mutilated her."

Ketchmark highlighted the premeditation that went into the killing, including Internet searches on performing Caesareans and e-mails Montgomery sent to Stinnett to arrange the fatal meeting.

"This defendant is a cold-blooded predator and Bobbie Jo is her prey," she said.

Ketchmark also described how the gruesome death had hurt Stinnett's family, particularly her husband, Zeb, who was forced to raise their daughter alone, and her mother, Becky Harper, who found her daughter's body.

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