Jury chosen for pregnant woman slaying case

Wednesday, October 3, 2007 | 1:46 p.m. CDT; updated 12:56 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 5, 2008

KANSAS CITY — A jury has been selected for the federal death penalty trial of a woman accused of killing a pregnant woman and cutting the baby from her womb.

Don Ledford, spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office, said the six-man, six-woman jury was seated about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. Three alternates also were selected.

Lisa Montgomery, 39, of Melvern, Kan., is charged with kidnapping resulting in death. Prosecutors allege she strangled Bobbie Jo Stinnett, 23, in Stinnett’s Skidmore home in December 2004 and removed the baby with a kitchen knife.

Stinnett was eight months pregnant at the time of the slaying. The baby, Victoria Jo Stinnett, survived.

Jury selection, which was closed to the public, began Monday. It was expected to take three days but ended a day early, Ledford said. Opening statements are scheduled to start Thursday. Prosecutors say the trial could last three to four weeks.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys have declined to comment about the case.

Montgomery pleaded not guilty to the charge in January 2005, and her lawyers have said they plan to use an insanity defense. They say Montgomery suffers from several conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and impulsivity.

U.S. District Judge Gary A. Fenner has yet to rule on the prosecution’s motion to disallow a defense expert to testify that brain scans indicate Montgomery suffers from a mental illness that caused her to believe she was pregnant.

In their motion last month, prosecutors said the “testing methods were scientifically invalid.”

A massive search began when Stinnett’s mother found her daughter lying in a pool of blood. Police tracked down Montgomery and the baby the next day through e-mails Montgomery had sent Stinnett about buying a dog.

Authorities said they also found a bloody rope used to strangle Stinnett and a knife used in removing the baby from her womb. The rope and knife are among more than 100 pieces of physical evidence prosecutors could present at Montgomery’s trial. Prosecutors also have more than 100 possible witnesses.

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