Jenkins calls on Trump to commute executions in final days of his presidency
Observer Staff Report | Sunday, January 10, 2021
In a statement released Sunday, University President Fr. John Jenkins urged President Donald Trump to halt the remaining executions the Justice Department plans on undertaking in the next weeks.
Jenkins specifically named Lisa Montgomery, who is scheduled to be executed Tuesday in Terre Haute, Indiana, and urged Trump to stop what he states is an “inhumane, unprecedented and unnecessary spree of executions.”
In 2020, the Trump administration oversaw 10 federal executions, the highest number of federal executions seen in the United States in decades.
Lisa Montgomery was convicted in 2004 for murdering 23-year-old Bobbie Jo Stinnett, who was eight months pregnant at the time. Montgomery strangled Stinnett, removed her baby and kidnapped the infant, leaving Stinnett to bleed to death.
With a lifetime history of abuse, Montgomery’s legal team petitioned Trump to commute her life sentence on the basis of her unstable mental state.
“The execution of Lisa Montgomery is particularly troubling and illustrates some of the many systemic failures in our system of capital punishment,” Jenkins said in his statement. “The victim of severe child abuse and sexual violence herself, Montgomery committed a crime so heinous and bizarre that it raises serious questions about her mental state.”
Jenkins also questioned the inherent discrimination in the justice system.
“In a system in which the poor are far more likely to be sentenced to the death penalty, there is serious doubt about the quality of the counsel [Montgomery] received from a public defense attorney,” Jenkins said. “Defendants charged with killing a white victim are far more likely to be executed than when the victim is Black.”
Jenkins went on to point out the lack of evidence that threat of the death penalty deters individuals from committing crimes. In addition, he argued for the protection of all human life, a tenent of the Catholic Church.
“The most fundamental objection to the death penalty, though, is that it undermines our commitment to the sanctity of all human life — healthy or infirm, talented or ordinary, good or bad,” Jenkins said. “Death row inmates have been convicted of some of the most awful crimes imaginable, yet even their lives do not lose that dignity.”
Calling upon all people regardless of faith, Jenkins expressed his desire to end capital punishment not only in Indiana and the United States, but across the world.
“To the extent that we accept the killing done by the state in our name, we are all complicitous, and we are all brutalized,” Jenkins said.