Jury quickly finds Lisa Montgomery guilty in murder case

The jury in the federal death penalty case against Lisa Montgomery found her guilty in a verdict announced late this afternoon. The penalty phase of the trial starts later this week.

In closing arguments Monday, assistant U.S. Attorney Matt Whitworth urged jurors to think of Victoria Jo Stinnett, the girl Montgomery is accused of hacking out of Bobbie Jo Stinnett’s womb three years ago in Skidmore, Mo.

“Every time she has a birthday, it will also be the anniversary of the slaughter of her mother,” Whitworth told the jury. “Every year. For the rest of her life.”

The government alleges Montgomery strangled Bobbie Jo Stinnett in December 2004 to get Victoria Jo. Montgomery needed a baby to back up her repeated empty claims of pregnancy, prosecutors allege.

Montgomery’s defense team has countered that the Melvern, Kan., woman, suffered from the delusion that she was pregnant — a condition called pseudocyesis — at the time of Stinnett’s murder. They also claim that she did not know that what she was doing was wrong.

Conceding that Stinnett’s death was brutal, defense attorney John P. O’Connor pushed jurors to look beyond the specifics of the crime.

“It’s hard to put our arms around mental illness, because we don’t understand it,” O’Connor said.

If the jury finds Montgomery guilty, a second phase of the trial will begin to determine her sentence. Prosecutors have said they plan to seek the death penalty.