Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Death Penalty and Women

The Huffington Post ran an interesting article about the percentages of women on death row who actually are executed. The statistics show that although only 2% of death row inmates are women, when it comes their time to be put to death, they are much more likely to receive the coveted commutation to life in prison. But, why?

Linda Carty is the rarest of rarities. She's a British subject who once sang for the Prince of Wales. She's a principal in a film documentary. She's garnered massive international media, legal and political attention and support. She worked as an informant for the Drug Enforcement Agency. And she's a grandmother. This last notation is mentioned only because that makes her one of only a handful of grandmothers who have ever been scheduled to be executed in a capital case. Carty was convicted of a murder, that she denies committing.

She could be executed in or before June in Texas if the Supreme Court turns down her appeal. It's her last; every other court has rejected her plea for a new trial. The odds on paper that the high court will dump her death sentence are long. The Court considers only about one in 30 death penalty appeal cases.

The gender bias that riddles the death penalty as much as racial and class bias is a good thing in that it saves the lives of women. What's problematic is the rationale for saving their lives. Prosecutors regard women as less violent, less threatening and more emotionally unstable than men. If they kill and maim, they supposedly do it out of blind love or loyalty to a man. This reinforces the notion that women are the dainty sex in need of guidance, protection and, ultimately, male control. This strips them of any social and moral accountability for and control over their acts. It makes it even easier to marginalize women. Carty's case typifies that. Carty says that four men kidnapped the victim, a woman, in a murder for hire scheme and then murdered her. Witnesses back her story and have publicly declared that she is not a cold blooded murderer.

What's your opinion? Do you think "women are the dainty sex in need of guidance, protection and, ultimately, male control?" Of course not, who would admit such a thing in this day and age?

Do you think focusing on this disparity will result in a higher percentage of women being executed or a lower percentage of men? I hope it's the second.

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