From Rejection to Outrage:
Convictions and Executions that Obviate the Presence of Severe Mental Illness
On January 13, 2021, Lisa Montgomery, a female inmate on federal death row was executed for murder in the state of Indiana. She was the first woman in nearly 70 years to receive the death penalty in the United States. This miscarriage of justice reflects a lack of understanding and negation of the role of severe childhood trauma and its impact on later life psychopathology and criminality. Lisa Montgomery suffered from severe mental illness that was not considered relevant when determining her criminal responsibility.
In 2004, Montgomery strangled a 23-year-old woman who was 8 months pregnant. She cut the baby out of the womb and took the infant posing the infant as her own daughter. Montgomery was allegedly suffering from severe mental disorders; specifically, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, complex post-traumatic stress disorder, dissociative disorder, and traumatic brain injuries, in the context of a biographical history of profoundly serious physical and mental abuse as a child—described by many as torture. Prior to the crime, Montgomery suffered from pseudocyesis, a rare psychotic belief that one is pregnant, where hormonal and physical changes of pregnancy also occur.
In many cases, severe mental disturbances are a result of significant childhood trauma and can alter thoughts, emotions, beliefs, and behaviour. As we are organizations dedicated to advocacy and awareness as well as the prevention of mental health, we want to emphasize the need to assess, defend, and adequately treat people suffering from mental disorders to prevent these tragedies wherein the perpetrator is themselves a victim of their mental illness.
On occasion of the execution of Lisa Montgomery, from the Marcé Spanish Society of Perinatal Mental Health (MARES), the Spanish Association of Perinatal Psychology (AEPP), and the Centre for Perinatal Psychology and Forensics International (CPPFI) without forgetting the pain of the family of the victim of such an atrocious death, Bobbie Jo Stinnett, we express our rejection and outrage with regard to the conviction that led to the execution of Lisa Montgomery, a woman who at the time of committing the crime suffered from severe mental disorders. This federal execution violates the right to consider the seriousness of the mental illness at the time of commission of the criminal act and abuses by authoritarian power, by not considering the research underscoring the role of childhood traumas, and the physical, psychological, and environmental conditions of the person.