Death Row Exonerees Make a Plea to Halt Executions

Death row survivors speak out against Lisa Montgomery’s execution and other scheduled federal executions.

01.13.21 By Innocence Staff

This is an undated photo of Lisa M. Montgomery. (AP Photo/Maryville Daily Forum)

This is an undated photo of Lisa M. Montgomery. (AP Photo/Maryville Daily Forum)

At approximately 1:30 a.m. this morning, the federal government executed Lisa Montgomery in Terre Haute, Indiana. Ms. Montgomery was the first woman in 67 years to be put to death by federal authorities, since Bonnie Brown Heady and Ethel Rosenberg in 1953

Corey Johnson and Dustin Higgs, who were also scheduled to die this week in an ongoing spate of federal executions, were granted stays of execution after contracting COVID-19. The government is actively appealing the stays.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 173 people have been exonerated from death row over the last 48 years. Included among that group are 23 Innocence Project clients and survivors. Unsurprisingly, many of these death row exonerees have become ardent advocates against the death penalty. Indeed, organizations like Witness to Innocence, an exoneree-led abolition organization, have played an important role in the recent death penalty bans in New Hampshire, California, and Washington.

Decades of Innocence Project exoneration cases document the fundamental flaws in the administration of the death penalty, and the grave risks it poses to innocent lives. For example, Black people are condemned to death at an arbitrary and disproportionate rate and account for more than 40% of people currently on death row.