Women and Capital Punishment in the United States

An Analytical History


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About the Book

The history of the execution of women in the United States has largely been ignored and scholars have given scant attention to gender issues in capital punishment. This historical analysis examines the social, political and economic contexts in which the justice system has put women to death, revealing a pattern of patriarchal domination and female subordination.
The book includes a discussion of condemned women granted executive clemency and judicial commutations, an inquiry into women falsely convicted in potentially capital cases and a profile of the current female death row population.

About the Author(s)

David V. Baker is a lecturer in sociology and criminology at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. He holds a doctorate in sociology and a law degree. He has received National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships to study American slavery at the University of California at Irvine, and immigration policy at the University of California at Los Angeles and is deputy editor of the journal Criminal Justice Studies.

Bibliographic Details

David V. Baker
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 440
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2016
pISBN: 978-0-7864-9950-2
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2288-0
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Introduction    1
Organization  2

Part I. Theoretical and Empirical Frameworks
1. Theoretical Frameworks    6
Chivalry Theory  6
Evil Woman Theory  7
Equality Theory  9
A Critical Perspective  1
Capital Justice and the U.S. Supreme Court  12
Capital Justice and Women in the Modern Era  18
Concluding Remarks  30
2. Empirical Frameworks   31
Data  31
Characteristics  33
Historical Contours  40
Concluding Remarks  42

Part II. Historical Context
3. The First Historical Trend, 1630s–1750s   64
Executions of White Women  65
Executions of Black Women  83
Executions of American Indian Women  90
Concluding Remarks  91
4. The Second Historical Trend, 1760s–1890s   92
Executions of White Women  92
Executions of Black Women  107
Executions of Mexican Women 128
Executions of American Indian Women  130
Execution of a Native Hawaiian Female 132
Correcting the Historical Record   132
Concluding Remarks  132
5. The Third Historical Trend, 1900s–2010s  134
Executions of White Women  136
Executions of Black Women  160
Execution of an American Indian Woman  169
Correcting the Historical Record  170
Contrasting Lynchings and Executions  170
Concluding Remarks  171

Part III. Wrongful Convictions, Judicial Commutations, Executive Clemency and Women on Death Row Today
6. Wrongful Convictions in Potentially Capital Cases  174
Data  175
Factors Contributing to False Convictions  180
Predatory Murder  184
Spousal Murder  201
Child Murder  206
Shaken Baby Syndrome  220
Medical Neglect Cases Motivated by Religion  222
Manslaughter  223
Concluding Remarks  227
7. Judicial Reversals of Capital Convictions  229
Early Cases of Judicial Reversals  233
Judicial Reversals Post-Furman  239
Concluding Remarks  288
8. Executive Clemency of Condemned Women  290
Clemency and Gender  292
Women on Death Row Granted Clemency  292
Clemency in the 18th Century  298
Clemency in the 19th Century  302
Clemency in the 20th Century  314
Concluding Remarks  333
9. The Female Death Row Population  335
Institutional Indifference  337
Women Foreign Nationals  338
Deaths of Condemned Women by Natural Causes  339
Characteristics of the Female Death Row Population  340
Predatory Murderers  341
Child Murderers  356
Spousal Murderers  364
Life Without Parole  370
Concluding Remarks  372

Conclusion    373
The First Historical Trend  373
The Second Historical Trend  375
The Third Historical Trend  376
Chapter Notes    381
Bibliography    394
Index    425

Book Reviews & Awards

“This comprehensive and compelling text covers all aspects of women and capital punishment…a well-written and fascinating book. What is remarkable is the amount of research and time that went into collecting the enormous amount of information…essential”—Choice