Most Killed their Children, Husbands

By , About.com Guide

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    It is indeed rare for a woman to be given the death sentence in the United States. Of the 3,487 persons on death row in the U.S. as of June 2004, only 49 of them, or 1.3 percent, were women.

Of the 49 women who were on death row in 2004, 55 percent (27) of them were convicted of killing their children, their husbands and/or boyfriends or both, according to Victor L. Streib’s research in “Death Penalty For Female Offenders, January 1, 1973 through June 30, 2004.” Seven of those 27 women who killed family members killed more than one victim.

Few Women on Death Row

There are approximately 50,000 women in prisons in the United States, only 0.1 percent of them are on death row. In comparison to men, death sentencing rates remain very low, with only 566 total executions carried out against women since the first recorded execution in 1632 — or less than 3 percent of the total executions.

Very few women enter the capital murder system, and fewer still are ever actually executed, according to the Death Penalty Information Center:

  • Women account for only 1 in 10 murder arrests. 
  • Women account for only 1 in 50 death sentences imposed at the trial level. 
  • Women account for only 1 in 71 persons presently on death row. 
  • Women account for only 1 in 92 persons actually executed in the modern era (since 1976). 

11 Female Executions

Only 11 female offenders have been executed since 1976. They are:

  • Velma Barfield in North Carolina, November 2, 1984
  • Karla Faye Tucker in Texas, February 3, 1998
  • Judy Buenoano in Florida, March 30, 1998
  • Betty Lou Beets in Texas, February 24, 2000
  • Christina Riggs in Arkansas, May 2, 2000
  • Wanda Jean Allen in Oklahoma, January 11, 2001
  • Marilyn Plantz in Oklahoma, May 1, 2001
  • Lois Nadean Smith in Oklahoma, December 4, 2001
  • Lynda Lyon Block in Alabama, May 10, 2002
  • Aileen Wuornos in Florida, October 9, 2002.
  • Frances Newton in Texas, Sept. 15, 2005. 

Source: Death Penalty Information Center


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