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Archive for Saturday, April 7, 2007

Insanity defense appears likely to delay trial in stolen fetus case

April 7, 2007

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— The trial of a Kansas woman accused of strangling an expectant mother and stealing her fetus probably will be delayed past its scheduled April 30 opening, lawyers on both sides of the case said Thursday.

Lisa Montgomery, 37, faces one federal count of kidnapping resulting in death. She has pleaded not guilty, and her lawyers announced last week they would rely partly on a defense of "diminished capacity," commonly called the insanity defense.

During a pretrial conference Thursday in U.S. District Court, prosecutor Matt Whitworth said there was not enough time before April 30 for the government's mental health experts to interview Montgomery and write their reports.

"I think it's pretty evident we're going to need a continuance," Whitworth said.

Neither side has formally requested a continuance, but Whitworth said he might join defense lawyers in asking for a delay of up to two months.

Montgomery is accused of going to the northwest Missouri home of 23-year-old Bobbie Jo Stinnett in December 2004 on a ruse. Stinnett, then eight months pregnant, was strangled, and the baby girl was cut from her womb and taken from the home in Skidmore.

Montgomery showed the baby off as her own in and around her hometown of Melvern, Kan., before she was arrested the following day. The infant survived and was returned to Stinnett's husband in Missouri.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Montgomery.

The diminished capacity defense requires mental health evaluations by experts for the defendant and the government.

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