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Ruth Brown Snyder (1895 - 12 January 1928) was an American murderess. Her execution, in the electric chair at Sing Sing Prison, for the murder of her husband, Albert, was captured in a well-known photograph.
In 1925, Snyder, a Queens Village, Queens housewife, began an affair with Henry Judd Gray, a married corset salesman. She then began to plan the murder of her husband, enlisting the help of her new lover, though he appeared to be very reluctant. Her distaste for her husband apparently began when he insisted on hanging a picture of his late fiancée, Jessie Guishard, on the wall of their first home, and also named his boat after her. Guishard, whom Albert described to Ruth as "the finest woman I have ever met", had been dead for 10 years.
Ruth Snyder first persuaded her husband to purchase insurance, but with the assistance of an insurance agent (who was subsequently fired and sent to prison for forgery) "signed" a $48,000 life insurance policy that paid extra ("double indemnity") if an unexpected act of violence killed the victim.
According to Judd Gray, Ruth had made at least seven attempts to kill her husband, all of which he survived. On March 20, 1927, the couplegarrotted Albert Snyder and stuffed his nose full of chloroform-soaked rags, then staged his death as part of a burglary. Detectives at the scene noted that the burglar left little evidence of breaking into the house; moreover, that the behavior of Mrs. Snyder was inconsistent with her story of a terrorized wife witnessing her husband being killed.
Then, the police found the property Ruth had claimed had been stolen—still in the house, but hidden. A breakthrough came when a detective found a paper with the letters "J.G." on it (it was a memento Albert Snyder had kept from former love Jessie Guishard), and asked Ruth about it. A flustered Ruth's mind immediately turned to her lover, whose initials were also "J.G", and she asked the detective what Judd Gray had to do with this. It was the first time Gray had been mentioned, and the police were instantly suspicious.
Gray was found upstate, in Syracuse. He claimed he had been there all night, but eventually it turned out a friend of his had created an alibi, setting up Gray's room at a hotel. Gray proved far more forthcoming than Ruth about his actions. He was caught and returned to Jamaica, Queens and charged along with Ruth Snyder.
(Dorothy Parker told Oscar Levant that Gray tried to escape the police by taking a taxi from Manhattan to Long Island, which Levant noted was "quite a long trip". According to Parker, in order "not to attract attention, he gave the driver a ten-cent tip".)Trial
The trial at the Long Island City Courthouse was covered by such figures as Peggy Hopkins Joyce, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Aimee Semple McPherson D. W. Griffith, Damon Runyon, Will Durant and, a year before her own death from cancer, Nora Bayes. Runyon disparaged the crime's status as a clever attempt at a murder—he nicknamed it "the dumb-bell murder case" because "it was so dumb!"The defense was cut-throat: Snyder and Gray each contended the other was responsible for killing Albert. The jury believed both, and Gray and Snyder were both convicted and sentenced to death.
Snyder, the first woman executed in Sing Sing since 1899, went to the electric chair only moments before her former lover. The final moments of her execution (by "State Electrician" Robert G. Elliott) were caught on film with the aid of a miniature plate camera custom-strapped to the ankle of Tom Howard, a Chicago Tribune photographer working in cooperation with theTribune-owned New York Daily News. Howard's camera was owned for a while by inventor Miller Reese Hutchison, then later became part of the collections of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.
Albert and Ruth had one child, a daughter named Lorraine, who was nine at the time of her father's murder. Following the pronouncement of the death sentence on her mother (May 1927), legal disputes arose between the relatives of both Albert and Ruth Snyder regarding the care of Lorraine. Warren Schneider, brother of the Albert Snyder, petitioned to be allowed to appoint a legal guardian who was not a member of Ruth Snyder's family. Josephine Brown, mother of Ruth Snyder, also petitioned for custody of the girl. Lorraine had been in the care of Mrs. Brown since the murder. Lorraine was placed in a Catholic Institution by Mrs. Brown, where she was residing at the time of her mother's execution. Ruth requested that Lorraine not be brought to the prison for a final visit.
On 7 September 1927, Josephine Brown was awarded guardianship over the girl. During this time, there were disputes with the insurance company that Ruth had used to insure the life of Albert. Although one policy worth 30,000 was paid out without contest,[ they filed suit to void two other policies, worth $45,000 and $5000. By May, 1928, the insurance company made available $4000 for the maintenance of Lorraine; the ruling in the case was reached in November, 1928, when the court found that the policies could not be collected on because they had been issued fraudulently. At the time of the judgement, the lawyer acting on behalf of Snyder and Brown asked that the court allow them to appeal without a printed record, on the basis that the family was destitute and unable to sell the house because of the notoriety associated with it. By May, 1930 it was ruled that the two policies were invalid.
During her time on death row, Ruth Snyder wrote a sealed letter to be given to Lorraine "when she is old enough to understand". One year after the sentence was carried out, Lorraine was apparently aware that her parents were both dead, but not of the manner of their passing.
The first woman to be executed legally in California was Juanita Spinelli, the coldblooded "Duchess" of a Bay Area robbery gang. A grandmother and ex-wrestler, she had a reputation for being able to pin a poker chip with a thrown knife at 15 paces. She was convicted in the murder of a gang member she feared would inform on her. "The coldest, hardest character, male or female, I have ever known," Warden Duffy wrote, "a homely, scrawny, nearsighted, sharp-featured scarecrow. . . . The Duchess was a hag, evil as a witch, horrible to look at, impossible to like, but she was still a woman and I dreaded the thought of ordering her execution."
After being held at the woman's prison in Tehachapi, she was driven to San Quentin two days before her date with the gas chamber. About 30 prisoners signed a petition protesting the execution of a woman and offered to draw straws among themselves to select a replacement. The governor granted her two stays.
But the day after Thanksgiving in 1941, her time came. The Los Angeles Times reported that she wore a short-sleeved green dress and clutched a white handkerchief in her left hand. Photos of her children were tied over her heart. She was being walked into the chamber when the warden noticed that the 100 or so witnesses were not in place. The Duchess stood outside the gas chamber and chatted about the weather as the witnesses filed in. The Times story said her face, minus dentures, looked sunken as the gas began to rise. She coughed, her head dropped forward, then whipped back, streaming her long gray hair over the chair back. "The Duchess coughed again, then blew out her breath with a sound like that a horse sometimes makes with his lips," The Times reported. Five minutes later, a prison official barked: "That's all, boys."
The Execution of Mata Hari, 1917
Mata Hari was the stage name Dutch-born Margaretha Zelle took when she became one of Paris' most popular exotic dancers on the eve of World War I. Although details of her past are sketchy, it is believed that she was born in the Netherlands in 1876 and married a Dutch Army officer 21 years her senior when she was 18. She quickly bore him two children and followed him when he was assigned to Java in 1897. The marriage proved rocky. The couple returned to the Netherlands in 1902 with their daughter (their other child, a son, had died mysteriously in Java). Margaretha's husband obtained a divorce and retained custody of his daughter.
Margaretha then made her way to Paris where she reinvented herself as an Mata Hari Indian temple dancer thoroughly trained in the erotic dances of the East. She took on the name Mata Hari and was soon luring audiences in the thousands as she performed in Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Madrid and other European capitals. She also attracted a number of highly-placed, aristocratic lovers willing to reward her handsomely for the pleasure of her company.
With the outbreak of World War I, Mata Hari's cross-border liaisons with German political and military figures came to the attention of the French secret police and she was placed under surveillance. Brought in for questioning, the French reportedly induced her to travel to neutral Spain in order to develop relationships with the German naval and army attaches in Madrid and report any intelligence back to Paris. In the murky world of the spy, however, the French suspected her of being a double agent. In February 1917 Mata Hari returned to Paris and immediately arrested; charged with being a German spy. Her trial in July revealed some damning evidence that the dancer was unable to adequately explain. She was convicted and sentenced to death.
In the early-morning hours of October 15, Mata Hari was awakened and taken by car from her Paris prison cell to an army barracks on the city's outskirts where she was to meet her fate.
"I am ready."
Henry Wales was a British reporter who covered the execution. We join his story as Mata Hari is awakened in the early morning of October 15. She had made a direct appeal to the French president for clemency and was expectantly awaiting his reply:
"The first intimation she received that her plea had been denied was when she was led at daybreak from her cell in the Saint-Lazare prison to a waiting automobile and then rushed to the barracks where the firing squad awaited her.
Never once had the iron will of the beautiful woman failed her. Father Arbaux, accompanied by two sisters of charity, Captain Bouchardon, and Maitre Clunet, her lawyer, entered her cell, where she was still sleeping - a calm, untroubled sleep, it was remarked by the turnkeys and trusties.
The sisters gently shook her. She arose and was told that her hour had come.
'May I write two letters?' was all she asked.
Consent was given immediately by Captain Bouchardon, and pen, ink, paper, and envelopes were given to her.
She seated herself at the edge of the bed and wrote the letters with feverish haste. She handed them over to the custody of her lawyer.
Then she drew on her stockings, black, silken, filmy things, grotesque in the circumstances. She placed her high-heeled slippers on her feet and tied the silken ribbons over her insteps.
She arose and took the long black velvet cloak, edged around the bottom with fur and with a huge square fur collar hanging down the back, from a hook over the head of her bed. She placed this cloak over the heavy silk kimono which she had been wearing over her nightdress.
Her wealth of black hair was still coiled about her head in braids. She put on a large, flapping black felt hat with a black silk ribbon and bow. Slowly and indifferently, it seemed, she pulled on a pair of black kid gloves. Then she said calmly:
'I am ready.'
The party slowly filed out of her cell to the waiting automobile.
The car sped through the heart of the sleeping city. It was scarcely half-past five in the morning and the sun was not yet fully up.
Clear across Paris the car whirled to the Caserne de Vincennes, the barracks of the old fort which the Germans stormed in 1870.
The troops were already drawn up for the execution. The twelve Zouaves, forming the firing squad, stood in line, their rifles at ease. A subofficer stood behind them, sword drawn.
The automobile stopped, and the party descended, Mata Hari last. The party walked straight to the spot, where a little hummock of earth reared itself seven or eight feet high and afforded a background for such bullets as might miss the human target.
As Father Arbaux spoke with the condemned woman, a French officer approached, carrying a white cloth.
'The blindfold,' he whispered to the nuns who stood there and handed it to them.
'Must I wear that?' asked Mata Hari, turning to her lawyer, as her eyes glimpsed the blindfold.
Maitre Clunet turned interrogatively to the French officer.
'If Madame prefers not, it makes no difference,' replied the officer, hurriedly turning away. .
Mata Hari was not bound and she was not blindfolded. She stood gazing steadfastly at her executioners, when the priest, the nuns, and her lawyer stepped away from her.
The officer in command of the firing squad, who had been watching his men like a hawk that none might examine his rifle and try to find out whether he was destined to fire the blank cartridge which was in the breech of one rifle, seemed relieved that the business would soon be over.
A sharp, crackling command and the file of twelve men assumed rigid positions at attention. Another command, and their rifles were at their shoulders; each man gazed down his barrel at the breast of the women which was the target.
She did not move a muscle.
The underofficer in charge had moved to a position where from the corners of their eyes they could see him. His sword was extended in the air.
It dropped. The sun - by this time up - flashed on the burnished blade as it described an arc in falling. Simultaneously the sound of the volley rang out. Flame and a tiny puff of greyish smoke issued from the muzzle of each rifle. Automatically the men dropped their arms.
At the report Mata Hari fell. She did not die as actors and moving picture stars would have us believe that people die when they are shot. She did not throw up her hands nor did she plunge straight forward or straight back.
Instead she seemed to collapse. Slowly, inertly, she settled to her knees, her head up always, and without the slightest change of expression on her face. For the fraction of a second it seemed she tottered there, on her knees, gazing directly at those who had taken her life. Then she fell backward, bending at the waist, with her legs doubled up beneath her. She lay prone, motionless, with her face turned towards the sky.
A non-commissioned officer, who accompanied a lieutenant, drew his revolver from the big, black holster strapped about his waist. Bending over, he placed the muzzle of the revolver almost - but not quite - against the left temple of the spy. He pulled the trigger, and the bullet tore into the brain of the woman.
Mata Hari was surely dead."
Henry Wales' account was originally published in newspapers through the International News Service on Oct. 19, 1917, republished in Carey, John, EyeWitness to History (1987); Howe, Russell Warren, Mata Hari: The True Story (1986).
Ruth Ellis (9 October 1926 – 13 July 1955), née Neilson, was the last woman to be executed in the United Kingdom. She was convicted of the murder of her lover, David Blakely, and hanged atHolloway Prison, London, by Albert Pierrepoint.
Ellis was born in the Welsh seaside town of Rhyl, the third of six children. During her childhood her family moved to Basingstoke. Her mother, Elisaberta (Bertha) Cothals, was a Belgian refugee; her father, Arthur Hornby, was a cellist from Manchester who had spent much of his time playing on Atlantic cruise liners. Arthur changed his surname to Neilson after the birth of Ruth's elder sister Muriel.
Ellis attended Fairfields Senior Girls' School in Basingstoke, leaving when she was fourteen to work as a waitress. Shortly afterwards, in 1941 at the height of the Blitz, the Neilsons moved to London. In 1944, 17-year-old Ruth became pregnant by a married Canadian soldier and gave birth to a son, Clare Andrea Neilson, known as "Andy". The father sent money for about a year, then stopped. The child eventually went to live with Ellis's mother. Ellis became a nightclub hostess through nude work, which paid significantly more than the various factory and clerical jobs she had held since leaving school. Morris Conley, the manager of the Court Club in Duke Street, where she worked, blackmailed his hostess employees into sleeping with him. Early in 1950, she became pregnant by one of her regular customers, having taken up prostitution. She had this pregnancy terminated (illegally) in the third month and returned to work as soon as she could.
On 8 November 1950, she married 41-year-old George Ellis, a divorced dentist with two sons, at the register office in Tonbridge, Kent. He had been a customer at the Court Club. He was a violent alcoholic, jealous and possessive, and the marriage deteriorated rapidly because he was convinced she was having an affair. Ellis left him several times but always returned. In 1951, she gave birth to daughter Georgina, but George refused to acknowledge paternity and they separated shortly afterwards. Ellis moved in with her parents, and went back to hostessing to make ends meet. Georgina was also under the care of her mother.
In 1953, Ellis became the manager of a nightclub. At this time, Ellis was lavished with expensive gifts by admirers, and had a number of celebrity friends. She met David Blakely, three years her junior, through racing driver Mike Hawthorn. Blakely was a well-mannered formerpublic school boy, but also a hard-drinking racer. Within weeks he moved into her flat above the club, despite being engaged to another woman, Mary Dawson. She became pregnant for the fourth time but aborted the child, feeling she could not reciprocate the level of commitment shown by Blakely towards their relationship.
Ellis then began seeing Desmond Cussens. Born in 1921 in Surrey he had been an RAF pilot, flying Lancaster bombers during World War Two, leaving the RAF in 1946, when he took up accountancy. He was appointed a director of the family business Cussens & Co., a wholesale and retail tobacconists with outlets in London and South Wales. When Ruth was sacked as manager of the Carroll Club, she moved in with Cussen at 20 Goodward Court, Devonshire Street, north of Oxford Street, and became his mistress.
The relationship with Blakely continued, however, and became increasingly violent and embittered as Ellis and Blakely continued to see other people. Blakely offered to marry Ellis, to which she consented, but she lost another child in January 1955, after a miscarriage induced by a punch to the stomach in an argument with Blakely.
On Easter Sunday, 10 April 1955, Ellis took a taxi from Cussen's home to a second floor flat at 29 Tanza Road, Hampstead, the home of Anthony and Carole Findlater and where she suspected Blakely might be. As she arrived, Blakely’s car drove off, so she paid off the taxi and walked the ¼ mile to The Magdala, a four-storey public house in South Hill Park, Hampstead, where she found David’s car parked outside.
At around 9:30 pm David Blakely and his friend Clive Gunnell emerged. Blakely passed Ellis waiting on the pavement when she stepped out of Henshaws Doorway, a newsagent next to The Magdala. He ignored her when she said "Hello, David," then shouted "David!"
As Blakely searched for the keys to his car,[ Ellis took a .38 calibre Smith & Wesson Victory model revolver from her handbag and fired five shots at Blakely. The first shot missed and he started to run, pursued by Ellis round the car, where she fired a second, which caused him to collapse onto the pavement. She then stood over him and fired three more bullets into him. One bullet was fired less than half an inch from Blakely's back and left powder burns on his skin.
Ellis was seen to stand mesmerized over the body and witnesses reported hearing several distinct clicks as she tried to fire the revolver's sixth and final shot, before finally firing into the ground. This bullet ricocheted off the road and injured Gladys Kensington Yule, 53, in the base of her thumb, as she walked to the Magdala.
Ellis, in a state of shock, asked Gunnell, "Will you call the police, Clive?" She was arrested immediately by an off-duty policeman, Alan Thompson (PC 389), who took the still-smoking gun from her, put it in his coat pocket, and heard her say, "I am guilty, I'm a little confused". She was taken to Hampstead police station where she appeared to be calm and not obviously under the influence of drink or drugs. She made a detailed confession to the police and was charged with murder. Blakely's body was taken to hospital with multiple bullet wounds to the intestines, liver, lung, aorta and windpipe.Investigation
No solicitor was present during Ellis's interrogation or during the taking of her statement at Hampstead police station, although three police officers were present that night at 11.30 pm: Detective Inspector Gill, Detective Inspector Crawford and Detective Chief Inspector Davies. Ellis was still without legal representation when she made her first appearance at the magistrates' court on 11 April 1955 and held on remand.
She was twice examined by principal Medical Officer, M. R. Penry Williams, who failed to find evidence of mental illness and she undertook an electroencephalography examination on 3 May that failed to find any abnormality. While on remand in Holloway, she was examined by psychiatrist Dr. D. Whittaker for the defence, and by Dr. A. Dalzell on behalf of the Home Office. Neither found evidence of insanity.Trial and execution
On Monday, 20 June 1955, Ellis appeared in the Number One Court at the Old Bailey, London, before Mr. Justice Havers. She was dressed in a black suit and white silk blouse with freshly bleached and coiffured blonde hair. Her lawyers had wanted her to play down her appearance, but she was determined to have her moment. To many in the courthouse, her fixation with being the brassy blonde was at least partially responsible for the poor impression she made when giving evidence.
It's obvious when I shot him I intended to kill him. —Ruth Ellis, in the witness box at the Old Bailey, 20 June 1955.
This was her answer to the only question put to her by Christmas Humphreys, counsel for the Prosecution, who asked, "When you fired the revolver at close range into the body of David Blakely, what did you intend to do?" The defending counsel, Aubrey Melford Stevensonsupported by Sebag Shaw and Peter Rawlinson, would have advised Ellis of this possible question before the trial began, because it is standard legal practice to do so. Her reply to Humphreys' question in open court guaranteed a guilty verdict and therefore the mandatory death sentence which followed. The jury took 14 minutes to convict her. She received the sentence, and was taken to the condemned cell at Holloway.
In a 2010 television interview Mr Justice Havers’s grandson, actor Nigel Havers, said his grandfather had written to the Home Secretary recommending a reprieve as he regarded it as a crime passionnel, but received a curt refusal, which was still held by the family. It has been suggested that the final nail in her coffin was that an innocent passer-by had been injured.
Reluctantly, at midday on 12 July 1955, the day before her execution, Ellis, having dismissed Bickford, the solicitor chosen for her by her friend Desmond Cussen, made a statement to her original solicitor Victor Mishcon and his clerk, Leon Simmons. She revealed more evidence about the shooting and said that the gun had been provided by Cussen, and that he had driven her to the murder scene. Following their 90-minute interview in the condemned cell, Mishcon and Simmons went to the Home Office, where they spoke to a senior civil servant about Ellis's revelations. The authorities made no effort to follow this up and there was no reprieve.
In a final letter to David Blakely's parents from her prison cell, she wrote ""I have always loved your son, and I shall die still loving him".
Ever since Edith Thompson's execution in 1923, condemned female prisoners had been required to wear thick padded calico knickers, so just prior to the allotted time, Warder Evelyn Galilee, who had guarded Ellis for the previous three weeks, took her to the lavatory. Warder Galilee said, “I’m sorry Ruth but I’ve got to do this.” They had tapes back and front to pull. Ruth said “Is that all right?” and “Would you pull these tapes Evelyn, I’ll pull the others,” On re-entering the condemned cell, she took off her glasses, placed them on the table and said "I won't be needing these anymore."
Thirty seconds before 9 am on Wednesday 13 July, the official hangman, Albert Pierrepoint and his assistant, Royston Rickard, entered the condemned cell and escorted Ruth the 15 feet to the execution room next door. She had been weighed at 103 lb the previous day and a drop of 8 ft 4 in was set, Pierrepoint effected the execution in just 12 seconds and her body was left hanging for an hour. Her autopsy report, by the pathologist Dr. Keith Simpson, was made public.
The Bishop of Stepney, Joost de Blank, visited Ellis just before her death, and she told him: "It is quite clear to me that I was not the person who shot him. When I saw myself with the revolver I knew I was another person." These comments were made in a London evening paper of the time, The Star.Public reaction
The case caused widespread controversy at the time, evoking exceptionally intense press and public interest to the point that it was discussed by the Cabinet.
On the day of her execution the Daily Mirror columnist Cassandra wrote a column attacking the sentence, writing "The one thing that brings stature and dignity to mankind and raises us above the beasts will have been denied her—pity and the hope of ultimate redemption." A petition to the Home Office asking for clemency was signed by 50,000 people, but the Conservative Home Secretary Major Gwilym Lloyd George rejected it.
The hanging helped strengthen public support for the abolition of the death penalty, which was halted in practice for murder in Britain ten years later (the last execution in the UK occurred during 1964). Reprieve was by then commonplace. According to one statistical account, between 1926 and 1954, 677 men and 60 women had been sentenced to death in England and Wales, but only 375 men and seven women had been executed.
In the early 1970s, John Bickford, Ellis's solicitor, made a statement to Scotland Yard from his home in Malta. He was recalling what Desmond Cussen had told him in 1955: how Ellis lied at the trial and how he (Bickford) had hidden that information. After Bickford's confession a police investigation followed but no further action regarding Cussen was taken.
Anthony Eden, the Prime Minister at the time, made no reference to the Ruth Ellis case in his memoirs, nor is there anything in his papers. He accepted that the decision was the responsibility of the Home Secretary, but there are indications that he was troubled about it.
Foreign newspapers observed that the concept of the crime passionnel seemed foreign to the British.Family aftermath
Ellis's husband, George Ellis, descended into alcoholism and hanged himself in 1958. Her son, Andy, who was 10 at the time of his mother's hanging, suffered irreparable psychological damage and committed suicide in a bedsit in 1982. The trial judge, Sir Cecil Havers, had sent money every year for Andy's upkeep, and Christmas Humphreys, the prosecution counsel at Ellis's trial, paid for his funeral. Ellis's daughter, Georgina, who was three when her mother was executed, was adopted when her father hanged himself three years later. She died of cancer aged 50.Pardon campaign
The case continues to have a strong grip on the British imagination and in 2003 was referred back to the Court of Appeal by the Criminal Cases Review Commission. The Court firmly rejected the appeal, although it made clear that it could rule only on the conviction based on the law as it stood in 1955, and not on whether she should have been executed.
In July 2007 a petition was published on the 10 Downing Street website asking Prime Minister Gordon Brown to reconsider the Ruth Ellis case and grant her a pardon in light of new evidence that the Old Bailey jury in 1955 was not asked to consider. It expired on 4 July 2008.Burials
Ellis was buried in an unmarked grave within the walls of Holloway Prison, as was customary for executed prisoners. In the early 1970s the prison underwent an extensive programme of rebuilding, during which the bodies of all the executed women were exhumed for reburial elsewhere. Ellis's body was reburied at St Mary's Church in Amersham, Buckinghamshire. The headstone in the churchyard was inscribed 'Ruth Hornby 1926–1955'. Her son, Andy, destroyed the headstone shortly before he committed suicide in 1982. Ellis's grave is now overgrown with yew trees.
Coincidentally, Styllou Christofi, who was executed in December 1954, lived at 11 South Hill Park in Hampstead, with her son and daughter-in-law, a few metres from The Magdala public house at number 2a, where David Blakely was shot four months later.
Styllou Pantopiou Christofi (1900 - 13 December 1954) was a Greek Cypriot woman hanged inBritain for murdering her daughter-in-law. She was the second to last woman to be executed in Britain, followed in 1955 by Ruth Ellis.
Christofi was tried in Cyprus in 1925 on a charge of murdering her mother-in-law by ramming a lighted torch down her throat. She was found not guilty and released.
She came to Britain in 1953 to see her son, Stavros, whom she had not seen for 12 years. He was working as a waiter in London and was married to a German woman, Hella, with whom he had three children.Murder
Christofi did not get along with Hella and on the night of 29 July 1954, hit Hella on the head with an ash pan from the boiler. She then strangled her and in order to dispose of the corpse, dragged it into the garden, poured paraffin over it and set it alight. A neighbour witnessed this but did not realise the article being burnt was a body.
Christofi, who spoke little English, later ran into the street to raise the alarm and stopped a passing car saying: "Please come. Fire burning. Children sleeping". When the police arrived they became suspicious on finding blood stains in the house. Christofi explained: "I wake up, smell burning, go downstairs. Hella burning. Throw water, touch her face. Not move. Run out, get help."Trial and execution
Christofi was charged with murder and her trial started at the Old Bailey on 28 October 1954. Her counsel offered a defence of insanity but the jury rejected it. Christofi was sentenced to death and hanged at Holloway prison by executioner Albert Pierrepoint on 13 December 1954. Pathologist Francis Camps examined the body. Her wish to have a Maltese Cross put on the wall of the execution chamber was granted. It remained there until the room was dismantled in 1967.
Albert Pierrepoint claimed in his autobiography, Executioner: Pierrepoint, that Christofi failed to attract much media attention or sympathy because, unlike the pretty Ruth Ellis, she was less glamorous. A "blonde night-club hostess" was much more alluring than "a grey-haired and bewildered grandmother who spoke no English."Burial
The body of Christofi was buried in an unmarked grave within the walls of Holloway Prison, as was customary. In 1971 the prison underwent an extensive programme of rebuilding, during which the bodies of all the executed women were exhumed. With the exception of Ruth Ellis, the remains of the four other women executed at Holloway (i.e. Styllou Christofi, Edith Thompson, Amelia Sach and Annie Walters) were subsequently reburied in a single grave (plot 117) at Brookwood Cemetery in Surrey.
Edith Thompson and Frederick Bywaters
Edith Jessie Thompson (25 December 1893 – 9 January 1923) and Frederick Edward Francis Bywaters (27 June 1902 – 9 January 1923) were a British couple who were executed for themurder of Thompson’s husband Percy. Their case became a cause célèbre.
Early life and events leading to the murder
Edith Thompson was born Edith Graydon on Christmas Day 1893, at 97 Norfolk Road in Dalston, London, the first of the five children of William Eustace Graydon (1867–1941), a clerk with the Imperial Tobacco Company, and his wife, Ethel Jessie Liles (1872–1938), the daughter of a police constable. During her childhood, she was a happy, talented girl who excelled at dancing and acting, and was academically bright, with a natural ability in arithmetic. Upon leaving school, she found employment as a bookkeeper for a fabric importer. She quickly established a reputation as a stylish and intelligent woman and was promoted by the company several times, until she became their chief buyer and made regular trips to Paris on behalf of the company.
In 1909, at the age of fifteen, she met Percy Thompson, three years her elder, and after a six-year engagement they were married in 1916. They bought a house in the fashionable town of Ilford in Essex and with both their careers flourishing, lived a comfortable life.
In 1920, the couple became acquainted with 18-year-old Freddy Bywaters, although Bywaters and Edith Thompson had met nine years earlier when Bywaters, then aged nine, had been a school friend of Edith’s younger brother. By 1920 Bywaters had joined the merchant navy. The 26-year-old Edith was immediately attracted to the 18-year-old Bywaters, who was handsome and impulsive and whose stories of his travels around the world excited Edith's love of romantic adventure. To Edith, the youthful Bywaters represented her romantic ideal; by comparison, 29-year-old Percy seemed staid and conventional. Percy welcomed the youth into their company, and the trio, joined by Edith’s sister Avis, holidayed on the Isle of Wight. Upon their return, Percy invited Bywaters to lodge with them.
Soon after, Edith and Bywaters began an affair which Percy discovered. He confronted the pair. A quarrel broke out and when Bywaters demanded that Percy divorce Edith, Percy ordered him from the house. Edith later described a violent confrontation with her husband after Bywaters left, and said that her husband struck her several times and threw her across the room. From September 1921 until September 1922, Bywaters was at sea, and during this time Edith Thompson wrote to him frequently. Upon his return, they met again.The murder
On October 3, 1922 the Thompsons attended a performance at the Criterion Theatre in London’s Piccadilly Circus and were returning home, when a man jumped out from behind some bushes near their home, and attacked Percy. After a violent struggle, during which Edith Thompson was also knocked to the ground, Percy was stabbed. Mortally wounded, he died before Edith could summon help. The attacker fled. Neighbours later reported hearing a woman screaming hysterically, and shouting “no, don’t” several times, and by the time police arrived she had still not composed herself. At the police station she appeared distressed and confided to police that she knew who the killer was, and named Freddy Bywaters. Believing herself to be a witness, rather than an accomplice, Thompson provided them with details of her association with Bywaters.
As police investigated further they arrested Bywaters, and upon discovering a series of more than sixty love letters from Edith Thompson to Bywaters, arrested her too. The letters were the only tangible evidence linking Edith Thompson to the murder, and allowed for the consideration of common purpose, namely that if two people wish to achieve the death of a third, and one of these people acts on the expressed intentions of both, both are equally guilty by law. They were each charged with murder.The trial
The trial began on December 6, 1922 at the Old Bailey, with Bywaters defended by Cecil Whiteley KC and Thompson by Sir Henry Curtis Bennett KC. Bywaters co-operated completely. He had led police to the murder weapon he had concealed after the murder, and consistently maintained that he had acted without Edith’s knowledge. The love letters were produced as evidence. In these Edith Thompson passionately declared her love for Bywaters, and her desire to be free of Percy. She said in her letters that she had ground a glass light bulb to shards and had fed them to Percy mixed into mashed potato, and on another had fed him poison. According to those letters, not only did Percy fail to die, he had failed to become ill, and Edith now implored Freddy to “do something desperate”.
Thompson’s counsel urged her not to testify, stressing that the burden of proof lay with the prosecution and that there was nothing they could prove other than that she had been present at the murder. By this time Thompson seemed to be enjoying the publicity she was attracting and insisted that she would take the stand. Her testimony proved damning, and she was caught in a series of lies. Her demeanour was variously flirtatious, self-pitying and melodramatic and she made a poor impression on the judge and the jury, particularly when she contradicted herself. She had claimed that she had never poisoned her husband, and references in her letters to attempting to kill him were merely attempts to impress her paramour. In answer to several questions relating to the meaning of some of the passages in her letters, she said “I have no idea”. Her counsel later stated that her vanity and arrogance had destroyed her chances for acquittal. Her testimony negated the positive testimonies of neighbours who had heard Thompson crying out in horror during her husband’s murder, and the statements from police who dealt with the immediate investigation stating that Thompson appeared to be in a genuine state of shock and disbelief and attested to her assertions of “Oh God, why did he do it?” and “I never wanted him to do it”.
Bywaters stated that Edith Thompson had known nothing of his plans for the simple reason that he had not intended to murder Percy Thompson. His aim had been to confront him, and force him to deal with the situation, and when Thompson had reacted in a superior manner, Bywaters had lost his temper. Edith Thompson, he repeatedly stated, had made no suggestion to him to kill Percy, nor did she know that Bywaters intended to confront him. In discussing the letters, Bywaters stated that he had never believed Edith had attempted to harm her husband, but that he believed she had a vivid imagination, fuelled by the novels she enjoyed reading, and in her letters she viewed herself in some way as one of these fictional characters.
On December 11, the jury returned a verdict of guilty, and both Thompson and Bywaters were sentenced to death by hanging. Thompson became hysterical and started screaming in the court, while Bywaters loudly protested Thompson’s innocence.Imprisonment and execution
Before and during the trial, Thompson and Bywaters were the subjects of highly sensationalist and critical media commentary. However, after they had been sentenced to death there was a dramatic shift in public attitudes and in the media coverage. Almost one million people signed a petition against the imposed death sentences. Bywaters attracted admiration for his fierce loyalty and protectiveness towards Thompson. Thompson was regarded as a foolish woman, but attracted sympathy because it was generally considered abhorrent to hang a woman – no woman had been executed in Britain since 1907. Thompson herself stated that she would not hang, and when her parents were allowed to visit her she urged her father to simply take her home. Despite the petition and a new confession from Bywaters (in which he once again declared Thompson to be completely innocent) the Home Secretary, William Bridgeman, refused to grant a reprieve. A few days before their executions, Thompson was told that the date of execution had been fixed, at which point she lost her composure. She spent the last few days of her life in a state of near hysteria, crying, screaming, moaning, and unable to eat. On the morning of her execution she was heavily sedated, but remained in an agitated state. On January 9, 1923 in Holloway Prison, 29-year-old Thompson was half carried to the scaffold, where she had to be held upright while the noose was placed around her neck. In Pentonville Prison, 20-year-old Bywaters, who had tried since his arrest to save Thompson from execution, was himself hanged. The two executions occurred simultaneously at 9.00 am, only about a half-mile apart, as Holloway and Pentonville prisons are located in the same district. Later, as was the rule, the bodies of Thompson and Bywaters were buried within the walls of the prisons in which they had been executed.Critiques of the case and the trial
Several years later it was revealed that when the gallows trapdoor opened and Thompson fell, the sudden impact of the noose caused her to suffer a massive haemorrhage. The large amount of blood spilled, combined with the fact that Thompson had gained weight during her imprisonment even while resisting food, led to conjecture that she had been pregnant. However, no subsequent post-mortem examination was made. John Ellis, her executioner, eventually committed suicide, stating that he had remained haunted by the horror of Thompson’s final moments. All women hanged in Britain after Thompson were required to wear special knickers made of canvas which would prevent a recurrence of the massive bleeding suffered by Thompson. Edith Thompson was one of only seventeen women hanged in the United Kingdom during the 20th century.
Rene Weis echoes a trend of recent and older suggestions that Edith Thompson was innocent of murder. The main basis for this argument is that there was no evidence that Edith was party to arranging the murder on the night in question, but the issue is bound up with his perception of what it means to be "principal to murder in the second degree" (i.e. support, assist, instigate, command, agree, murder) and also his perception of Edith's true character, although he concedes she was an adulteress and no saint.
As to her character, the trial Judge, Mr. Justice Shearman KC, and her Counsel, Sir Henry Curtis Bennett KC, differed. The former labelled her as an adulterer, deceitful and wicked and, by implication, easily capable of murder. Her letters were full of "insensate silly affection" and also "...full of the outpourings of a silly but, at the same time, wicked affection." This was concurred with by the Court of Appeal.Curtis Bennett attempted to cast her immorality as defensible in the context of the "glamorous aura" of a "great love," seeking to overlook the point continually being made by the Judge at the trial that the case concerned only an adulterer and an (adulterous) wife. In his summing up, he had said of Edith "This is not an ordinary charge of murder....Am I right or wrong in saying that this woman is one of the most extraordinary personalities that you or I have ever met? ...Have you ever read...more beautiful language of love? Such things have been very seldom put by pen upon paper. This is the woman you have to deal with, not some ordinary woman. She is one of those striking personalities met with from time to time who stand out for some reason or another....You are men of the world and you must know that where there is a liaison which includes some one who is married, it will be part of the desire of that person to keep secret the relations from the other partner. It is not the sort of thing that they would bring to the knowledge of their partner for life." "Curtis-Bennett later said "Was it not proved that she had posed to him (i.e. Bywaters) as a woman capable of doing anything - even murder - to keep his love? She had to: Bywaters wanted to get away from her." The Court of Appeal endorsed the Judge's description of the accused as adulterers "Now, the learned judge, in his summing-up to the jury, spoke of the charge as a common or ordinary charge of a wife and an adulterer murdering the husband. That was a true and appropriate description."
Weis seeks to draw attention to what he considers to be the inappropriateness of the Victorian morality of Mr. Justice Shearman KC to the era of the 1920s. However Young, writing contemporaneously with the trial, suggests that it was the young of that generation who needed to learn morality: "Mr. Justice Shearman frequently referred to Bywaters as "the adulterer," apparently quite unconscious of tho fact that, to people of Bywaters' generation, educated in the ethics of dear labour and cheap pleasure, of commercial sport and the dancing hall, adultery is merely a quaint ecclesiastical term for what seems to them the great romantic adventure of their lives. Adultery to such people may or may not be "sporting," but its wrongness is not a matter that would trouble them for a moment. Sinai, for them, is wrapped in impenetrable cloud. And if we are not prepared to adapt the laws of Sinai to the principles of the night club and the thé dansant, I see no other alternative but to educate again our young in the eternal verities on which tho law is based."
Weis's legal criticisms are better argued by Broad (below), but both raise the same perennial objection to the fairness of Edith's conviction that there was no direct evidence of the involvement of Edith in the planning the murder, or that she had even consented to its commission on the night in question. The deficit in evidence as to direct arrangement was conceded by the Court of Appeal. However it pursued a line of reasoning to the effect that proof of instigation of murder in a community of purpose without evidence of rebuttal raises an "inference of preconcerted arrangement". The Court of Appeal held that her earlier prolonged incitement to murder revealed in her letters, combined with her extraordinary catalogue of lies about what happened on the night of the murder told to several witnesses, up until her second witness statement, which was open to being found untrustworthy, her meetings with Bywaters on the day of the murder, and the content of her last letter, was sufficient to convict her of arranging the murder.
The Court of Appeal seemed to take a narrower approach to "principal in the second degree" than the Court, but it is unclear, because "preconcerted arrangement" admits of different shades of meaning. The Court of Appeal seemed determined to forestall any argument based on the mere method or timing of the murder being unagreed to, if there was other plausible evidence of a preconcerted object of murder. Its narrow judgment is unsatisfactory to those who now allege Edith played no part in the murder itself. However its judgement is limited in extent to the point it was addressing, which was continuity of purpose up until the commission of the murder. If non-agreement as to the means and timing of the murder be conceded, there was merit to its claim that the case "exhibits from beginning to end no redeeming feature." Edith and Bywaters were untrustworthy, so besmirched were their reputations before they had even entered the witness box. The compact that they had admitted between themselves was one of "culpable intimacy." Both were on record as admitting perjury in swearing false statements to the police. Everything pointed to Edith desiring the death of her husband over an extended period, to the day of the murder itself, as evidenced by her ridiculous cover for Bywaters after the commission of the murder. What substantive evidence had the Defence put forward to deny her guilt besides her cry "Don't Don't!" uttered just as Bywaters was stabbing her husband to death? One might reasonably posit Edith to have been in some kind of semi-hypnotic trance cast by Bywaters's malevolent spell, that she was unable ever to free herself from.
Given Edith's reported unedifying performance as a witness, Weis does just about concede that her conviction was inevitable, as does Sir Henry Curtis Bennett KC, although he claims he could have saved her had she not rejected his advice not to take the witness stand His failure to secure her acquittal had affected him deeply. He appeared to maintain her innocence of murder throughout his life, claiming that Edith "paid the extreme penalty for her immorality." Young takes a similar approach, suggesting that Curtis-Bennett should have resigned his brief at her insistence on going into the witness box, although his quest for fame and fortune could never have allowed it. Curtis-Bennett said to Mr. Stanley Bishop, a journalist, "She spoiled her chances by her evidence and by her demeanour. I had a perfect answer to everything which I am sure would have won an acquittal if she had not been a witness. She was a vain woman and an obstinate one. She had an idea that she could carry the jury. Also she realized the enormous public interest, and decided to play up to it by entering the witness-box. Her imagination was highly developed, but it failed to show her the mistake she was making." One mistake that Edith appeared to make was in testifying that Bywaters had led her into the poison plots. Delusion was no defence to murder and this could not save her. Curtis-Bennet argued a more legally sure but evidentially bankrupt defence based on Edith acting the part of poisoner, or engaging in a fantasy. Yet she seemed to nullify this by her evidence of reacting to Bywater's suggestions.
One of her main lines of defence, that she was constantly seeking a divorce or separation from her husband, and that it rather than murder was the main object of the attested five-year compact between her and Bywaters shown in her letters, was dismissed by the Judge as a sham. "If you think these letters are genuine, they mean that she is involved in a continual practice of deceit; concealing the fact of her connection with Bywaters, and not reiterating it with requests for her husband to let her go."
As the Defence was left without a reply to the Judge's antipathy to its attempts to divest her "great love" of moral accountability and instill it with an aura of majesty - the suffering of her husband in his life and in his death cried out against it - the Defence had little of substance to put before the Jury except that she had not arranged the murder directly. Curtis-Bennet's linking of the innocence of Edith to that of Bywaters at the end of his closing speech disclosed the dire straits to which Edith's defence had sunk.
Young avers that the Defence used the wrong tactics. He said: "If the defence had said on behalf of Mrs. Thompson, 'I did not murder Percy Thompson, I had nothing to do with it. I had no knowledge of it, and I was stunned and horrified when it took place, and I defy the prosecution to introduce any evidence with which that denial is not absolutely compatible," and had rested on that, I do not think you could have found a British jury to convict her.'" There is certainly an air of a presumption of guilt surrounding her trial - a presumption that she did little to overturn either before or during it. However Young's point, that the burden of proof was on the Crown, to prove murder, rather than on the Defence to rebut a presumption of murder, is certainly a valid one.
A criticism can be made of the Court and also the Court of Appeal that it did not define "principal in the second degree" sufficiently precisely to give its critics confidence in the proper administration of justice, especially given that this was a capital case. The contention of the Crown was wide: "...that there was an agreement between these two persons to get rid of Mr. Thompson, or that, if there was not an actual agreement in terms, there was an instigation by Mrs. Thompson to get rid of him, on which Bywaters acted so as to kill him.". This does not seem to have been objected to by the Judge, who averred:"Now, I am going to ask you to consider only one question in your deliberations, and that is, was it an arranged thing between the woman and the man? I quite accept the law of the learned Solicitor-General that if you hire an assassin amd say: 'Here is money,' and there is a bargain between them that the assassin shall go out and murder the man when he can, the person who hires the assassin is guilty of the murder it is plain common sense. I also accept the proposition that if a woman says to a man, 'I want this man murdered; you promise me to do it,' and he then promises her (she believing that he is going to keep his promise as soon as he gets an opportunity) and goes out and murders someone, then she also is guilty of murder."
A five-year compact between Edith and Bywaters was shown to have lasted throughout the entire course of their exchange of letters up until the date of the murder. It was obvious that if only one of its aims had been the death of Percy Thompson, which seemed tolerably plain from the letters, and from Edith's persistent lying on the night of the murder, and her subsequent false witness statement(s), then on the above definition of "principal in the second degree" as no more than as instigator in a community of purpose, Edith would be found guilty. This was presumably the basis on which the Jury's decision rested. It is difficult to see how the Jury could have arrived at any other conclusion. The Judge, Mr. Justice Shearman KC, placed much weight on inconsistencies in her evidence, particularly her statements to the police concerning the night of the murder that suggested she had intended to conceal her witness of the crime, and perhaps conversations of criminal intent with Bywaters preceding it, although she always vigorously denied foreknowledge of it. Broad states that Judge's summing up was considered to be at the time "deadly, absolutely against her" but he does not claim that the Judge was less than impartial, even though he resolutely argues for her innocence.
The Defence did succeed in some points, showing that guesswork by the prosecution over ambiguous content of some of the letters was fanciful and wrong. An autopsy on Percy Thompson had failed to reveal any evidence that he had been fed ground glass or any type of detectable poison. That her letters did not necessarily reflect her deeds in respect of the so-termed poison plots was fairly clear. Even though perceived in her favour by Broad and Young, the Court of Appeal held the poison-plots against her and against him: "... if the question is, as I think it was, whether these letters were evidence of a protracted, continuous incitement to Bywaters to commit the crime which he did in the end commit, it really is of comparatively little importance whether the appellant was truly reporting something which she had done, or falsely reporting something which she merely pretended to do." Moreover "it matters not whether those letters show or, at any rate, go to show, that there was between this appellant and Mrs Thompson an agreement tending to the same end. Those letters were material as throwing light, not only upon the question by whom was this deed done, but what was the intent, what was the purpose with which it was done" said the Court of Appeal to Bywaters.
The impending crime of Bywaters is seen in the morbid and almost demented possessiveness of his last letters to Edith.. This was at odds with Edith's last letter to him in which she complained that she was obliged to continue living with her husband as his "dutiful wife" if only in appearance, because she lacked the funds to do otherwise. Bywaters was further apprised that, as Percy was now always suspicious, Bywaters was not going to be allowed to dominate Edith's life to quite the same extent as before. Combined with Edith's earlier ambiguous remark to "be jealous of [her husband] so much that you will do something desperate", it seems that matters reached a juncture, albeit in a dangerously unstable mind, long since blinded to the norms of morality by his hatred of Percy. Despite the culpability of Bywaters, whose only claim to leniency was that he had been led astray by Edith, which was an unlikely proposition due to his reported lack of innocence, the press of the day "hardened in favour of condemnation of the woman and forgiveness of the youth because he was a weak and often unwilling slave of her stronger will."
The entire folio of letters was later published by Filson Young in Notable British Trials Series in 1923, although the letters are not in any kind of chronological order, for which see Stuart Broad (below).
Edgar Lustgarten, "Verdict in Dispute," 1949, states on p.161 that the "The Thompson verdict is now recognised as bad, and the trial from which it sprang stands out as an example of the evils that may flow from an attitude of mind." From this it may be reasonably surmised that his essay is something of an apology for Edith, whose culpability he diminishes on the basis that "she was a woman of quality whose talents were frustrated." He adds "She was a remarkable and complex personality, endowed with signal attributes of body and of mind. She had intelligence, vitality, a natural grace and poise, sensitiveness, humour and illumining all these that quintessential femininity that fascinates the male." He writes "[In the absence of her letters] all that could be said against her was that she had lied in a futile attempt to protect and cover Bywaters. That might make her an accessory after the fact. It could not bring her into danger of the rope." Given that it was the murder of her husband that was involved, the more credible view is surely that her lies had raised immediate suspicion that she was somehow involved. As the Court of Appeal inferred, the circumstances of the case - two adulterers and a murdered spouse - were essentially "commonplace" and, moreover, Edith appears to have foreseen, as she was being led back to her house, just after the murder by a police sergeant, that she would be implicated, for she had said to him "they will blame me for this."
Although Lustgarten does not allege any defect in legal procedure, he says that the Court was unable to understand questions of "sex and psychology"  and the consequent possibility of fantasy.
A critique of the conduct of her trial and the state of the law was made by Stuart Broad. He argued that it was the misfortune of Edith Thompson that she was unable to separate herself from the prejudice due to her immorality whereas, if it had been a former crime, she was entitled not to have it mentioned. He also attacked the Judge for using morally prejudiced language to incite the prejudice of the Jury. He concedes that it was within the rules for the Jury to decide what the words in Edith's letters meant and what was intended by them. Broad went on to attack the general conduct of the trial:1. She should have been granted a separate trial in that she was handicapped by having to appear alongside Bywaters.2. The Judge allowed the Jury to be inflamed by prejudice on account of her immorality.3. Suspicion based on prejudice was allowed to take the place of proof of meaning, motive and intention in respect of her letters.
Broad also levels criticism against the prosecution for the unfair use of her letters at trial, covering such matters as:a) 1500 word extract used at trial from 25000 words in total. Many of the letters were censored by the court during the trial, because they dealt with subjects such as menstruation and orgasm, subjects that were not then considered fit for public discussion.b) Only one unambiguous reference to poison in five months preceding the murder.c) Meaning of uncertain phrases allowed to be suggested by the Crown and determined according to the prejudice of the Jury.d) The context of the murder suggested no element of planning.e) Due to their meandering and casual subject matter, nothing in the letters amounted to agreement or evidence of one.f) Break in the chain of causation after Bywaters had indicated he did not want to continue to see Edith, evidenced from her letters Jun 20-Sept 12 1922.g) That the letters were part of a fantasy between the parties was not put to the Jury.
The Home Office files were marked not to be opened for 100 years, which, while adding fuel to growing rumours, has not stifled criticism of the case.Burial
The body of Edith Thompson was buried in an unmarked grave within the walls of Holloway Prison, as was customary. In 1971 the prison underwent an extensive programme of rebuilding, during which the bodies of all the executed women were exhumed for reburial elsewhere.
With the exception of Ruth Ellis, the remains of the four other women executed at Holloway, (i.e. Edith Thompson, Styllou Christofi, Amelia Sach and Annie Walters) were reburied in a single grave at Brookwood Cemetery. The new grave (in plot 117) remained unmarked for over twenty years. Finally, on 13 November 1993, a grey granite memorial was placed on plot 117 and dedicated to the memory of the four women buried there. Edith Thompson's details appear prominently on the face of the tombstone, together with her epitaph: 'Sleep on beloved. Her death was a legal formality'. The names of the other three women are inscribed around the edges of the tombstone. The precise location of Thompson's grave within Brookwood Cemetery is 51°18′13.67″N 0°37′33.33″W.
Representatives of the Home Office did not inform Avis Graydon (Thompson's surviving sister) of the exhumation and the fact that she had the right to take control of her sister's funeral arrangements. Avis Graydon died in 1973, without ever knowing that her sister had been reburied in Brookwood, thus she never had the opportunity either to visit the grave or to erect some form of memorial over it.
The remains of Frederick Bywaters still lie in an unmarked grave within the walls of HMP Pentonville, where they were buried shortly after his execution in January 1923. The precise location of the cemetery within the prison is 51°32′44.05″N 0°06′54.62″W.
Edith's parents are buried in The City of London Cemetery and her devoted sister Avis Graydon, who had previously dated Freddy Bywaters, is buried in St. Patrick's Cemetery, Leytonstone.
Amelia Sach and Annie Walters
Amelia Sach operated a "lying-in" home in Stanley Road, and later at Claymore House in Hertford Road (both in East Finchley), London. Around 1900, she began to advertise that babies "could be left", and took money for adoptions. The clients, judging from the witness accounts, were mostly servants from local houses who had become pregnant, and who had employers who were keen for the matter to be resolved discreetly. There was a charge for lying in, and another for adoption, a "present" to future parents of between £25 and £30.
Annie Walters would collect the baby after it was born, and then dispose of it with poison — chlorodyne (a medicine containingmorphine). They were caught after Walters raised the suspicions of her landlord in Islington who was a police officer. An unknown number of babies were murdered this way, possibly dozens. During their trial at the Old Bailey, the quantity of baby clothes found at Claymore House was used as evidence of the scale of their crimes. A local campaign to have their sentences commuted to life failed, and they became the first women to be hanged at Holloway on 3 February 1903, by Henry Pierrepoint, the future father of Albert Pierrepoint, the only double hanging of women to be carried out in modern times.Background
Little is known about Annie Walters, but Sach's background is well-documented: Amelia Sach was baptised Frances Amelia Thorne inHampreston, Dorset, on May 5, 1867. She was the fourth child of ten and had three sisters. She married a builder called Jeffrey Sach in 1896. Sach was active long before she engaged Walters. By 1902 she was working from 'Claymore House', a semi-detached, red-brick villa in East Finchley, North London.
Sach was herself a mother; the England and Wales census of 1901 shows that a child was born to her in Clapham. She lied about her age — she was 32, not 29. Walters' background is unknown, but she had been married. She seems to have had a drinking problem and she would periodically advertise herself as a sick nurse. On her arrest she was determined to be "feeble", that is to say, feeble-minded.
There is a small possibility that the pair may have been involved in an earlier homicide that resulted in another woman being executed. In 1899, Louise Masset was tried for the murder of her young son Manfred, whose body was found in the ladies' lavatory at Dalston Junction railway station. Circumstantial evidence suggested that Louise was the murderer, and the killing was to be rid of a supposed encumbrance due to her wanting to marry a man named Lucas. However, in her claims of innocence, Louise said she had taken Manfred out of the care of one woman to give him to two ladies she met who had an establishment for the care of growing children. The police claimed they made some effort in looking for the two women, but the extent of their investigation is unknown. In any event, Louise Masset was tried and convicted of the murder and, despite a petition for mercy, was executed in early January 1900.Aftermath
The bodies of Sach and Walters were buried in unmarked graves within the walls of Holloway Prison, as was customary. In 1971 the prison underwent an extensive programme of rebuilding, during which the bodies of all the executed women were exhumed. With the exception ofRuth Ellis, the remains of the four other women executed at Holloway (i.e. Styllou Christofi, Edith Thompson, Sach and Walters) were subsequently reburied in a single grave (plot 117) at Brookwood Cemetery. The grave is marked with a horizontally laid grey granite tombstone, and the names of all the occupants are engraved on it. The precise location of Sach and Walters' grave within Brookwood Cemetery is 51°18′13.67″N 0°37′33.33″W.
"Claymore House", the semi-detached, red-brick villa where Sach had lived and worked in 1902 acquired a bad reputation due to the criminal activities which took place there. Some time after the trial of Sach and Walters, the building had its name chiselled off the stone plaque above the window and is now anonymous.
On Feb. 7, 1898, Brooklyn, N.Y., resident Martha Place killed her 17-year-old stepdaughter by throwing acid on her and then smothering her with a pillow. Later that night, she attacked her husband with an axe, seriously injuring him.
She was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. On the night of March 20, 1899, after Gov. Theodore Roosevelt refused to grant clemency, officials at Sing Sing prison carried out the first execution of a woman by electric chair. Place’s execution was chronicled by The New York Times, which reported that she “went to her death calmly.”
It wrote: “The straps across her face were quickly buckled on, the pad drawn over the eyes, the signal given, and the current turned on. … The body scarcely moved. The prayer book in the woman’s left hand twisted across the wrist and slipped partly out when the muscles relaxed. Her thin lips merely tightened.”
Warden Sage reported to his superiors: “The execution was entirely successful. There was no revolting feature.” Place’s execution was carried out by Edwin Davis, who nine years earlier in Auburn, N.Y., had carried out the execution of convicted murderer William Kemmler in the first ever execution by electrocution. New York adopted the method in 1888 as a “quicker and more humane alternative to hanging,” according to Encyclopedia Britannica.
The execution was badly botched; Kemmler survived the first wave of electricity and the executioners quickly subjected him to higher voltage. His body began convulsing and horrified witnesses, some of whom fainted, described the “odor of burning flesh.”
Martha Place was described by the press as “homely, old, ill-tempered, not loved by her husband,” before her execution.
Toni Jo Henry
Historically, women have always had to do something particularly awful to be convicted of a serious crime, and to sentence a woman to death – oh! That didn’t happen all that often. Especially when the female in question was good looking. The law has always made an ass of itself when there’s a beautiful woman in the dock.
And don’t argue with me about it. I’ve been trying to prove it to you, see.
One of the most beautiful, indeed absolutely stunning women ever convicted of murder and sentenced to death in the United States of America was a gal by the name of Toni Jo Henry. That’s her, photographed in her cell on the morning of her scheduled execution. Her jailers opened up a telephone line to the governor’s office, and Toni Jo waited on her last hope in life, mindful that women – especially unusually attractive women – and especially in the South – were not generally put to death, no matter what they’d done.
And she was a looker. Nearly every description ever printed of her focused on her eyes. Toni Jo was “slim, hard-faced, flint-eyed,” “smouldering-eyed,” with her “snapping black eyes, and her long, wavy blue black hair.”
After three trials, three convictions, and three pronouncements of the awful sentence, she probably expected to die. But still she was light-hearted about it. As the photographer fussed with his camera, Toni Jo said, “I’ve smiled twice, mister. You haven’t shot yet. Have you any idea how much talent is being wasted here today?”
It was one of many jokes she cracked as she waited for the phone to ring, chain-smoking and making small talk. “That lighter is guaranteed for a lifetime,” she said at one point. “You know one person whose lifetime lighter lasted a lifetime.”
Alas, Toni Jo wasn’t always quite so funny.
Her real name was Annie Beatrice, but that was a little too frou-frou for a girl whose mother died when she was four. Raised by an aunt, she dropped out of grade school and started running away and ramming the roads when she was a teenager. By the time she was 17, she was known all over her home town of Lake Charles, Louisiana as a “lewd woman.” She fell into prostitution and drugs and all the other disgusting things implied in “lewd.” She was arrested several times for assault, larceny, and vagrancy. She snipped a man’s ears with a pair of scissors and went to jail for awhile. “Lots of men have loved me – but I hate ‘em,” she said. They called her “the most ornery gal east of the Mississippi” and the “bad girl of the bayou” and “tiger girl.”
But when she met Cowboy, a/k/a Claude Henry, she managed to turn herself around. That’s his photo. He doesn’t look like anything extraordinary, but Toni Jo was all over it. Cowboy called her a swell kid. He got her off cocaine. He said he loved her, and so she married him.
But even when they met, he was on bond for a murder charge for the murder of a police officer. After they were married, Cowboy drew 50 years for murder and went to the big house in Huntsville. Toni Jo went crazy and vowed that the law could not come between them. She decided she would break him out of prison if she had to do it with her own two hands, because she’d do anything – she’d “hang four times” for Cowboy.
Love makes you do crazy things.
Like steal some guns and ammo. Like set off on foot to get from Louisiana to Texas with some wiry good-for-nothing half-boyfriend slash accomplice in tow, a punk named Harold Finnon Burkes.
Like pull a pistol on some traveling salesman dumb enough to stop to give you both a ride. Like make the poor automobile owner strip naked and beg for his life before you shoot him.
After Toni Jo murdered J.P. Calloway, her squeamish companion made a remark she didn’t like and she called him a yellow rat and cracked his head with the butt and left him behind. That, of course, turned out to be a big mistake, because he was a rat, and before she knew it she was in a jail cell.
She wouldn’t talk, so they brought her husband from prison to wring a confession from her. “Please honey tell them the truth,” he said, over and over. So she did, admitting they bumped the guy off. “I let him say his prayers and then gave it to him right between the eyes,” she said.
Toni Jo Henry went on trial in Lake Charles, where her reputation preceded her. The judge let a huge crowd into a courtroom so packed sometimes the defense lawyers couldn’t see all the jurors. The flashbulbs sometimes drowned out the arguments of counsel. And all in attendance let their wishes be known. During the trial various audience members made the hanging sign by drawing their fingers across their throats while looking at the jurors. When jurors went to lunch, they heard men and women alike cry out, “hang her,” “hang that bitch.”
On the first appeal in State of Louisiana v. Henry, the Supreme Court of Louisiana said:
The populace clamored for the death penalty. They demanded the life of the accused and clearly manifested their desires to the jury by signs and gestures which could not be misunderstood. The trial was attended by throngs. Hundreds more than could be seated crowded into the courthouse. The courtroom was literally packed and jammed with spectators. The judge says that more than 150 either stood or were seated within the railing which separated his stand from the space reserved for spectators. The record clearly shows that they were present not merely through interest, but for the purpose of letting it be known that they demanded the death penalty…. public sentiment against the accused was at fever heat…. no punishment inflicted upon the accused except that of death would appease the wrath of the throng.
She got a new trial. The same result followed, so they gave her a third trial. But they ran out of excuses and finally set a date in 1942 for Toni Jo to sit in the Chair. Cowboy escaped from a prison farm a few days before she was supposed to be electrocuted in a desperate effort to reach her; he was captured two days later.
In a jailhouse interview just before she was supposed to die, Toni Jo decided she might as well “kick the lid off.” She talked about Cowboy.
“I was a bad girl at 13, a drug addict at 16,” she said. “Nobody ever cared about me before him. That guy is the king of my heart. He gave me a home and he got that drug monkey off my back.
“I remember the day I told him I was a cokie and the look on his face. He thought I just smoked marijuana and grinned. But when I told him my train went a lot further than marijuana he took me to a hotel room and I lay there in bed for a week and he would come in now and then and ask me how I was doing. He’d slap my face with iced towels and we’d both laugh.
“I think condemned persons fret more about losing contact with human beings than anything else. You feel so out of it. It’s more than these bars: it’s more like a hellish battle with long distance when she won’t give you a number – anybody’s number—not one friendly human being’s number. You get so cold and pretty soon you’re a freak even to yourself.”
The reporter asked about the man she killed, the man who left behind a wife and daughter. “I’ve asked myself a thousand times and I don’t know why I killed that man,” she said. “I’m willing to walk down to the chair and I’ll take my medicine.”
Toni Jo said her dying wish was to talk to Cowboy, and though it violated the rules, they let her call him. She did all the talking and he did all the crying. ”I know it has to come and I’m ready for it, honey,” Toni Jo told Cowboy. “I’m glad to have known you for the short time that I did. I’m sorry that things had to turn out this way. But you’ve got to live right, Claude.”
The governor, by the way, never did call.
Toni Jo promised to go quietly, except she squawked when they shaved her head. They promised to hunt up a scarf for her to put over her bald head, knowing the photographers were lined up outside to see her taken to the death room. One of those photos, at right, shows her jailer looking more sad than Toni Jo.
Toni Jo Henry was electrocuted November 28, 1942. The wire services all reported that Cowboy Henry screamed and thrashed and destroyed his cell in his grief.
In a final awful coda, Cowboy was released from prison a handful of years after his wife's execution. The decade didn't end before Cowboy Henry was shot and killed and raced into the dark to be with his bad girl from the bayou.
Lena Baker (June 8, 1901 – March 5, 1945) was an African American maid who was executed for murder by the State of Georgia in 1945 for killing her employer, Ernest Knight, 67, in 1944. At her trial she claimed that he had imprisoned and threatened to shoot her should she attempt to leave, whereupon she took his gun and shot him. Baker was the only woman to be executed by electrocution in Georgia. She was granted a full and unconditional pardon by the State of Georgia in 2005, 60 years after her execution.
Lena Baker was charged with capital murder and stood trial on August 14, 1944, presided over by Judge William "Two Gun" Worrill, who kept a pair of pistols on his judicial bench in plain view. The all-white male jury convicted her by the end of the afternoon. Her court-appointed counsel, W.L. Ferguson, filed an appeal but then dropped Baker as a client. Governor Ellis Arnall granted Lena a 60-day reprieve so that the Board of Pardons and Parole could review the case, but clemency was denied in January 1945. Baker was transferred to Reidsville State Prison on February 23, 1945.
On entering the execution chamber, Baker calmly sat in the electric chair, called Old Sparky, and said "What I done, I did in self-defense, or I would have been killed myself. Where I was I could not overcome it. God has forgiven me. I have nothing against anyone. I picked cotton for Mr. Pritchett, and he has been good to me. I am ready to go. I am one in the number. I am ready to meet my God. I have a very strong conscience." Initially she was buried in an unmarked grave behind Mount Vernon Baptist Church. Since her pardoning a simple head stone has been placed above her grave.In 2001, members of Baker's family petitioned to have a pardon granted by the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, seeing the original verdict as racist. This was granted in 2005, with the Parole Board granting her a full and unconditional pardon, suggesting a verdict of manslaughter, which would have carried a 15-year sentence.
Velma Margie Barfield
Velma Margie Barfield's Gateway to Heaven: Velma Barfield was a 52-year-old grandmother and serial poisoner who used arsenic as her weapon. She was also the first woman executed after the death penalty was reinstituted in 1976 in North Carolina and the first woman to die by lethal injection. Velma Margie Barfield - Her Childhood: Velma Margie (Bullard) Barfield was born on October 23, 1932 in rural South Carolina. She was the second oldest child of nine and oldest daughter to Murphy and Lillie Bullard. Murphy was a small tobacco and cotton farmer. Soon after Velma's birth the family had to give up the farm and move in with Murphy's parents in Fayetteville. Murphy's father and mother died not long afterwards and the family remained in Murphy's parents' house. Murphy and Lillie Bullard : Murphy Bullard was a strict disciplinarian. Homemaker Lillie was submissive and did not interfere with how he treated their nine children. Velma did not inherit her mother's same submissive ways which resulted in several severe strap beatings by her father. In 1939 when she began attending school, she found some reprieve from being inside her cramped volatile home. Velma also proved to be a bright attentive student but socially rejected by her peers because of her impoverished style. The Temptation to Steal: Velma began stealing after feeling poor and inadequate around the other kids at school. She began by stealing coins from her father and was later caught stealing money from an elderly neighbor. Velma's punishment was severe and temporarily cured her from stealing. Her time was also more supervised and she was told she had to help with taking care of her sisters and brothers. A Skilled Manipulator: By the age of 10, Velma learned how to control talking back to her stern father. She also became a decent baseball player and played on a team her father organized. Enjoying her "favorite daughter" status, Velma learned how to manipulate her father to get what she wanted. Later in life, she accused her father of molesting her as a child, although her family strongly denied her charges. Velma and Thomas Burke: Around the time Velma entered high school her father took a job in a textile factory and the family moved to Red Springs, SC. Her grades were poor but she proved to be a good basketball player. She also had a boyfriend, Thomas Burke, who was a year ahead of her in school. Velma and Thomas dated under the strict curfews set by Velma's father. At age 17, Velma and Burke decided to quit school and marry, over the strong objections of Murphy Bullard Dedicated Parents: In December 1951, Velma gave birth to a son, Ronald Thomas. By September 1953, she gave birth to their second child, a baby girl they named Kim. Velma, a stay-at-home mom, loved the time she spent with her children. Thomas Burke worked at different jobs and although they were poor, they had the basic comforts. Velma was also dedicated to teaching her children solid Christian values. The young, poor Burke family was admired by friends and family for their good parenting skills. Velma Burke - A Model Mother: Velma Burke's enthusiasm for being an involved mother continued when the children began school. She participated in school-sponsored events, volunteered to chaperone school trips, and enjoyed driving children to various school functions. However, even with her participation, she felt emptiness while her children were at school. To help fill the void she decided to return to work. With the extra income, the family was able to move into a better home in Parkton, SC. The Burke's Problems Begin: In 1963, Velma had a hysterectomy. The surgery was successful physically but mentally and emotionally Velma changed. She suffered severe mood swings and temper tantrums. She worried she was less desirable and womanly since she could no longer have children. When Thomas joined the Jaycees, Velma's resentment soared because of his outside activities. Their problems intensified when she discovered he was drinking with his friends after the meetings, something he knew she was against. Booze and Drugs: In 1965, Thomas was involved in a car accident and had a concussion. From that point on he suffered severe headaches and his drinking increased as way to deal with his pain. The Burke household became explosive with endless arguments. Velma, consumed with stress, was hospitalized and treated with sedatives and vitamins. Once home, she gradually increased her prescription drug use and went to different doctors to get multiple prescriptions of Valium to feed her growing addiction.
Thomas Stuart - Death Number One: Thomas, displaying alcoholic behavior, pushed the family deeper into dysfunctional madness. One day while the kids were at school, Velma went to the laundermat and returned to find her house on fire and Thomas dead from smoke inhalation. Velma's suffering appeared short-lived although her misfortune continued. A few months after Thomas died another fire broke out, this time destroying the home. Velma and her children fled to Velma's parents and waited for the insurance check.
Jenning Barfield - Death Number Two: Jenning Barfield was a widower suffering from diabetes, emphysema and heart disease. Velma and Jennings met soon after Thomas died. In August 1970, the two married but the marriage dissolved as quickly as it began because of Velma's drug use. Barfield died of heart failure before the two could divorce. Velma seemed inconsolable. Twice a widow, her son off in the military, her father diagnosed with lung cancer and beyond belief, her home, for a third time, caught on fire.
Home Again: Velma returned to her parents' home. Her father died of lung cancer shortly afterwards. Velma and her mother constantly quarreled. Velma found Lillie too demanding and Lillie did not like Velma's drug use. During the summer of 1974, Lillie was hospitalized because of a severe stomach virus. The doctors were unable to diagnose her problem, but she recovered within a few days and returned home.
All the family celebrated Christmas together. During one of those celebrations Lillie consulted with one of her sons about a collection letter she kept receiving for an overdue car payment. Lillie's car was paid in full and had been for years and she did not understand why she was getting the letter. Her son reassured her that it was a billing mix-up. Within days after Christmas Lillie's illness returned, stronger then before, and the frail and weakened Lillie died. The Edwards - Death Number Four and Five: In 1975 Velma received a six-month prison sentence for writing bad checks. After her release she got a job as a caregiver to an elderly couple, 91-year-old Montgomery Edward and his 84-year-old wife, Dollie. At first all was going well, but within six months Dollie was complaining that Velma was lazy and inattentive. In January 1977 Montgomery died and Velma stayed on to help Dollie. By February Dollie was also dead, after developing a painful stomach virus. John Henry Lee - Death Number Six: Velma's next job was with 80-year-old John Henry Lee and his 76-year-old wife, Record, who had a broken leg and needed assitance. Velma moved into the Lumberton home and as with the Edwards, everything was fine for a while, but soon soured. Record's constant chatter grated on Velma's nerves and when a mysterious forged check showed up in Record's bank statement, her endless talk increased. During April and May, John Henry battled a severe stomach virus finally causing his death in early June. Not Marriage Material: In 1977 Velma moved in with her 56-year-old boyfriend, Stuart Taylor. Taylor was a widower and a tobacco farmer who enjoyed Velma's company. He was aware of her criminal past but knowing what a devout Christian she was he figured she had just fallen off the path for a short time. Still, with her speckled past of drug use and forgery, Taylor was not interested in marrying 46-year-old Velma. Stuart Taylor - Death Number Seven: Taylor and Velma spent much of their social time attending church activities. When the famous preacher, Rex Humbard, was holding a revival meeting in Fayetteville, the two decided to make the trip. During the revival Taylor began having severe stomach cramps and had to leave to go lay down in his truck. He was in severe pain and his condition worsened. Within days Stuart Taylor was dead and confused doctors recommended an autopsy. Before autopsy reports were completed, Lumberton Police Detective Benson Phillips received an anonymous call from a distraught woman who reluctantly identified herself as Velma Barfield's sister. In tear-choked words she told the detective that Velma killed Taylor and others. Lumberton knew of no one murdered in town but his curiosity was stirred. At the same time, Taylor's daughter was pressuring the doctors to give her answers on what killed her father so quickly. Arsenic - Her Weapon of Choice: Dr. Andrews called North Carolina's chief medical examiner, Page Hudson, to discuss the details of Stuart's illness. Hudson was quick to identify arsenic as the most likely reason and Velma as the person who probably administered it. When authorities questioned Velma she insisted she would never do anything so horrible. However, later that week, she quietly confessed to her son Ronnie, that she only meant to make Stuart sick. Ronnie insisted Velma go to the police and tell the truth. The Confession: Velma Barfield ended up confessing to killing the Edwards, John Henry Lee, and her mother, Lillie Burke. She said her reason for killing them was to cover up the fact that she had stolen money from them to support her drug use. Prosecutor Joe Freeman Britt was a fierce capital punishment advocate and wanted Velma tried on first-degree murder of Stuart Taylor. Proving Intent Meant Life or Death: Velma's lawyer, Bob Jacobson had the arduous task of tyring to get a reduced charge of second-degree murder. He used the defense that Velma only meant to make Stuart Taylor ill so she could return stolen money without being caught and that her judgment was marred from her long-term drug addiction. When the judge allowed information about the other victims to be admitted in court, Jacobson knew he was in trouble and so was Velma. Death Row Granny: Britt was a tough prosecutor and immediately set out to show the real Velma to the jury. His strategy worked and he rattled Velma's attempts to remain composed. Her anger and arrogance flared during cross-examination. Velma argued that it was old age, not her poison, that killed everyone. Her lack of remorse was awarded with a verdict of guilty and she was sentenced to death.
In prison she became a born-again Christian and her list of supporters who objected to her execution grew, including evangelist Billy Graham. Velma also discovered she was a skilled counselor and helped inmates adjust to their prison existence. She co-wrote a book, Woman on Death Row, a collection of her memoirs.
As her execution date approached, she admitting to other murders she committed including Stuart Thomas and Jennings Barfield.
Velma resigned herself to the fact that her execution was imminent. She stopped all appeals and was quoted as saying "When I go into that chamber at 2.00 a.m. it's my gateway to heaven."
The Execution of Velma Barfield: Dressed in pink pajamas and an adult diaper, she settled on the gurney without a struggle. Two IV drips were inserted into her arms. Three volunteers were selected to administer the lethal drug. Only two had the pancuronium bromide, preventing them from ever knowing if they had the drug that killed Velma.
Velma Barfield's Final Words: "I want to say that I am sorry for all the hurt that I have caused," she began in a firm voice. "I know that everybody has gone through a lot of pain - all the families connected - and I am sorry, and I want to thank everybody who has been supporting me all these six years. I want to thank my family for standing with me through all this and my attorneys and all the support to me, everybody, the people with the prison department. I appreciate everything - their kindness and everything that they have shown me during these six years."
Karla Faye Tucker
1st female murderer executed in Texas since 1976
Between 2:30 and 4:30 a.m. on June 13, 1983, Tucker, Danny Garrett, and James Leibrant left Tucker's residence after some "partying." Tucker told accomplice Leibrant she wanted to go over to Jerry Lynn Dean's apartment to collect some money and intimidate him a little. Tucker secretly took the keys from Dean's wife, Shawn. Two weeks before, Tucker had talked about "offing" Dean. Tucker later related that when she and Garrett entered the apartment bedroom, she put a pickax to Dean's head and Dean began begging for his life. Tucker struck him with the pickax 28 times, and expressed that every time she struck Dean she received sexual gratification. Deborah Thornton was hiding under some sheets in the bedroom, and because the lights were on and Dean had said Tucker's name several times, Tucker and Garrett decided to kill her as well. Leibrant testified that, after he was called into the apartment by Garrett, he heard a gurgling noise in the bedroom, walked back to the bedroom, and witnessed Tucker pull the pickax out of a body, smile, and hit it again. Leibrant then left the scene, but later helped Garrett dispose of Dean's car later that evening. The bodies were discovered by a co-worker who came to check up on Dean when he did not show up for work that morning. The pickax was found lodged in the chest of Deborah Thornton.
Tucker's execution created a media frenzy which included nightly reports from Geraldo, an interview on CNN Larry King Live, and live nationwide coverage from the prison at her execution. Her outgoing personality and religious conversion on death row even prompted televangelist Pat Robertson to request a commutation. She was the first woman to be executed in Texas since 1863, and only the second woman to be executed in the United States since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976.Last Words:
“ Yes sir, I would like to say to all of you — the Thornton family and Jerry Dean’s family — that I am so sorry. I hope God will give you peace with this. Baby, I love you. Ron, give Peggy a hug for me. Everybody has been so good to me. I love all of you very much. I am going to be face to face with Jesus now. Warden Baggett, thank all of you so much. You have been so good to me. I love all of you very much. I will see you all when you get there.
I will wait for you. ”
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 3, 1998 - FACT SHEET ON KARLA FAYE TUCKER
Texas Attorney General Dan Morales offers the following information on Karla Faye Tucker, who is scheduled to be executed after 6 p.m. Tuesday, February 3, 1998:
The state's evidence at the guilt and innocence phase established that Tucker murdered Jerry Lynn Dean during the commission of the offense of burglary of a habitation. The evidence revealed the following:
Between 2:30 and 4:30 a.m. on June 13, 1983, Tucker, Danny Garrett, and James Leibrant left Tucker's residence after some "partying" which included the ingestion of pills, marijuana, speed, and alcohol. Tucker was "pretty well on her way" (intoxicated due to the use of alcohol and drugs), but could walk, talk, and carry on a conversation. Tucker told accomplice Leibrant she wanted to go over to Jerry Lynn Dean's apartment to collect some money and intimidate him a little. They talked about taking some things if Dean wouldn't pay the money, specifically a motorcycle, a TV, and a stereo. Tucker got the keys to the apartment from Dean's wife, Shawn, secretly taking them but convincing Shawn that they were lost. Tucker had also talked about "offing" Dean about two weeks before the offense.
Tucker later related to her sister Kari Dean Garrett [hereinafter referred to as Kari] that when she and Garrett entered the apartment bedroom, she put a pickax to Dean's head and "told him not to move, m______ucker, or you're dead." Dean began begging for his life, and Tucker started to strike him with the pickax. Tucker expressed that every time she struck Dean she received sexual gratification. There was a girl hiding under some sheets in the bedroom, and because the lights were on and Dean had said Tucker's name several times, Tucker and Garrett decided to kill her as well. Leibrant testified that, after he was called into the apartment by Garrett, he heard a gurgling noise in the bedroom, walked back to the bedroom, and witnessed Tucker pull the pickax out of a body, smile, and hit it again. Leibrant then left the scene and walked for about an hour before he called Ronnie Burrell to come pick him up. Both Garrett and Tucker were angry with him for leaving the scene, but to make amends he helped Garrett dispose of Dean's El Camino later that evening. Leibrant was not offered any deals for his accomplice testimony except that the judge hearing his cases would be made aware of his cooperation.
The morning after the incident, Tucker showed up at the home of Douglas McAndrew Garrett, (hereinafter referred to as Doug), Garrett's brother, at approximately 6:30 a.m. in a blue El Camino. After unloading a motorcycle frame from the back of the El Camino, she said, "We offed Jerry Dean last night." She told him that Garrett had hit him with a hammer but she had picked him, receiving sexual gratification with every stroke. She handed him Dean's wallet which Doug immediately burned in an ashtray. Although Doug insisted that they remove the motorcycle parts from his garage at that time, he later allowed his brother to store some of the parts with him. He disposed of the parts before going to the police, but led the police to them at a later date. Doug subsequently called J.C. Mosier, a family friend who was a detective in the homicide division, and gave him Leibrant's name. Doug later assisted the police in obtaining a taped conversation of Tucker and Garrett discussing the murders.
The bodies were discovered by a co-worker of Dean's, Gregory Scott Traver, the morning of June 13 after Dean did not arrive to drive Traver to work. Traver found Dean's body in the spare bedroom along with the body of a girl with a pickax "in her heart." Traver also noticed that Dean's motorcycle was missing and the television had been moved. On the evening of the June 13, Tucker and Garrett were watching television when the news came on with a story about the murders. Tucker and Garrett laughed and giggled and said they were famous. Leibrant was called into the house so he could watch the news report as well.
Examination of the bodies revealed that Dean had been struck in the head and had several stab wounds. There were a total of 28 stab wounds, 20 of which could have been fatal, along with the fatal skull fracture. Dean's female companion, Deborah Ruth Thorton, also died from multiple stab wounds to the chest and stab wounds and blunt trauma to the back. A pickax like the one recovered at the scene could have caused the wounds that killed both of the decedents.
Tucker was indicted in Harris County, Texas, for the murder of Jerry Lynn Dean, while in the course of committing and attempting to commit robbery. After Tucker entered a plea of not guilty in the 180th District Court, the jury found her guilty of capital murder on April 19, 1984. On April 25, after a separate hearing on the issue of punishment, the jury answered affirmatively the special issues submitted pursuant to the former provisions of Article 37.071 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure (repealed effective September 1, 1991). In accordance with state law, the trial court sentenced Tucker to death by lethal injection. On June 29, the 180th District Court overruled Tucker's motion for a new trial. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the conviction and sentence upon direct appeal. Tucker v. State, 771 S.W.2d 523 (Tex.Crim.App. 1988). Tucker's motion for rehearing was denied on January 11, 1989, but the Court of Criminal Appeals stayed issuance of the mandate until April 11, 1989. Tucker's petition for writ of certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court was denied along with her application for stay of mandate on June 26, 1989. The mandate of the Court of Criminal Appeals was issued on July 6, 1989.
Tucker filed an application for state habeas relief on December 15, 1989, and she filed an amended petition on January 24, 1992. On April 29, 1992, the convicting court entered findings of fact and conclusions of law, and on May 29, 1992, it set Tucker's execution date for June 30, 1992. The Court of Criminal Appeals granted a stay of execution on June 22, 1992, pending an evidentiary hearing on three of Tucker's claims. On January 27, 1995, the Court of Criminal Appeals denied relief based on the findings and conclusions of the trial court, which it found to be supported by the record. Ex parte Tucker, Application no. 21,159-01 (Tex.Crim.App. Jan. 27, 1995).
Tucker's original federal habeas petition was filed on August 1, 1995, and she was given 60 days in which to file an amended petition. No amended petition was filed and the Director responded to the original habeas petition on February 5, 1996, with a motion for summary judgment and answer with brief in support thereof. Tucker filed a traverse and opposition to summary judgment on April 15, 1996. On July 31, 1996, the district court granted the Director's motion for summary judgment and entered its final order denying relief. Tucker's motion to amend judgment was denied on December 20, 1996. On January 17, Tucker filed a notice of appeal and application for a certificate of probable cause (CPC), which was denied by the district court on January 24, 1997.
Tucker filed an application for certificate of appealability and supporting memorandum on March 17, 1997. On June 3, 1997, without requiring a response from the state, the court of appeals issued an opinion order denying the application. This initial opinion, however, relied in part on the amended habeas standards effected by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), and the Court in Lindh v. Murphy, 117 S.Ct. 2059 (1997), subsequently concluded that the amended standards would not apply to cases such as Tucker's that were pending at the time of the AEDPA's enactment. As a consequence, the court of appeals treated Tucker's suggestion for rehearing en banc as a petition for panel rehearing, withdrew its prior opinion, and issued an opinion denying a certificate of "appealability" or CPC under the pre-AEDPA standards. Tucker v. Scott, 115 F.3d at 278. The Court denied certiorari on December 8, 1997. Tucker v. Johnson, 118 S.Ct. 605 (1997).
On December 18, 1997, the convicting court scheduled Tucker's execution for February 3, 1998. On January 20, 1998, Tucker filed a successive state writ application and request for stay of execution in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. The Court of Criminal Appeals dismissed the application as an abuse of the writ pursuant to Article 11.071 § 5 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. Tucker's petition for writ of certiorari, filed in the U.S. Supreme Court on January 29, 1998, was denied by the court on February 3, 1998. Tucker's request for clemency was filed with the Board of Pardons and Paroles on January 22, 1998, and was denied on February 2, 1998. Also on February 2, 1998, Tucker filed a 21 U.S.C. §1983 action and request for stay of execution in federal district court and a motion for leave to file a successive federal habeas petition in the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. The request for stay was denied in the federal district court case, and the 5th Circuit action was also denied. On February 3, 1998, Tucker filed a third writ of certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court, which is still pending.
PRIOR CRIMINAL HISTORY - Tucker had no prior convictions. However, the state did present evidence at the punishment phase concerning Tucker's prior violent acts, which included a previous altercation with Dean during which she punched him in the face while he had glasses on, forcing him to go to the hospital to have glass removed from his eye. Tucker also admitted a history of drug use and prostitution.
DRUGS AND/OR ALCOHOL - Evidence indicated that Tucker had ingested various drugs and alcohol immediately prior to commission of the instant offense.
"Tucker Dies After Apologizing; Despite Legal Blitz, Woman Executed for Pickax Slayings," by Kathy Walt. (February 3, 1998).
HUNTSVILLE -- Karla Faye Tucker, the 38-year-old pickax murderer who charmed television audiences worldwide with her coquettish smile and talk of Jesus, was executed Tuesday despite an all-out legal blitz to spare her life. Apologizing to the family members of her victims, Tucker smiled and told her friends and relatives, "I love all of you very much. I'm going to be face to face with Jesus now." With a needle of solution in each arm, she gasped twice slightly as the lethal drugs took effect, then she groaned. "I love you, Karla," her sister, Kari Tucker Weeks, cried out.
Tucker, who confessed her guilt in the slayings of a man and woman in Houston 15 years ago, was pronounced dead at 6:45 p.m., some eight minutes after the drugs began flowing through her veins. She was the first woman to be executed in Texas since 1863 and only the second nationally since 1984. She also was the first Texas prisoner to be executed this year. Tucker went to her death in a frenzy of media coverage, with an estimated 200 reporters from around the world posted outside the state prison system's Walls Unit in downtown Huntsville. A few hundred capital punishment abolitionists stood vigil in protest while death penalty advocates sparred verbally with them. It was in the final months leading up to her death that Tucker achieved the fame she once told her ex-husband was her destiny. "She always said that someday she would be famous," Stephen Griffith told the Houston Chronicle on Monday. Griffith, who was married to Tucker for six years, did not attend her execution. Although Tucker had pleaded to Gov. George W. Bush and the state Board of Pardons and Paroles for mercy, she had also maintained that her gender should not be an issue in deciding clemency. She said she had become a born-again Christian shortly after her arrest in 1983.
Among those witnessing her death was Richard "Tony" Thornton, the husband of victim Deborah Thornton, who had been angrily outspoken about his desire to see Tucker executed. "Make no mistake, this is not Karla Faye Tucker's day," he said prior to the execution. "This is Deborah Ruth Davis Thornton's day." He was accompanied in the witness room to the execution chamber by his daughter, Katheryn Thornton, and William Joseph Davis, Deborah Thornton's son from a previous marriage. State prison officials said they were not contacted by any relatives of Jerry Lynn Dean, Tucker's other victim, so no witnesses representing his family were present. "Here she comes, baby doll. She's all yours," Thornton said as Tucker's injection began. "The world's a better place."
Sitting in a wheelchair, the disabled Thornton was at eye level with Tucker, lying strapped to the gurney. At one point, Thornton referred to Tucker's current husband, a prison minister and car dealer, and remarked, "So now Dana Brown gets to write his book." Brown was among Tucker's personal witnesses, along with her sister, Kari Weeks; her lead attorney George "Mac" Secrest of Houston; friend Jackie Oncken, wife of Henry Oncken who had been one of Tucker's court-appointed attorneys before later becoming a U.S. attorney in Houston; and Ronald Carlson, the brother of Deborah Thornton, who had been outspoken in opposing Tucker's execution because of her purported religious conversion. Brown, who married Tucker three years ago, said he had not decided where she will be buried. Her body was taken to an undisclosed funeral home. "Her gain today was our loss," he said after her death, "someone that literally reached thousands of people for Jesus Christ and probably will continue through her testimony. Even though she cried out for forgiveness, God gave her just what she needed. That was love. "We've all made mistakes in our lives. Who are we to say when a person is past redemption? And that's what we're saying when we kill people, human beings."
The final roadblocks to Tucker's execution were cleared about 6:20 p.m. when Bush rejected her plea for a 30-day delay. His decision was not unexpected. "Karla Faye Tucker has acknowledged she is guilty of a horrible crime. She was convicted and sentenced by a jury of her peers," Bush said, reading a statement at the Capitol. "The role of the state is to enforce our laws and to make sure all individuals are treated fairly under those laws. The courts, including the United States Supreme Court, have reviewed the legal issues in this case, and therefore, I will not grant a 30-day delay. "May God bless Karla Faye Tucker and may God bless her victims and their families." Earlier in the day, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected three challenges to Tucker's death sentence under criminal and federal civil rights laws. There was no dissent and no comment by the justices. In addition, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans turned away her attorneys' efforts to start another round of federal challenges. State courts also rejected her contention that the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles violated the state's Open Meetings Act by not holding a public hearing or public vote in her clemency appeal.
Portrayed by some as the prodigal daughter who finally found peace and redemption in a Harris County Jail cell shortly after her arrest, Tucker and her lawyers for the past several weeks waged a massive legal and international public relations appeal for clemency. Long a self-admitted ham who had always enjoyed mugging for a camera -- even during her wild days as a drug-abusing, motorcycle-riding, hot-headed prostitute -- Tucker, her crime and her punishment have become the conundrum in the debate over capital punishment.
While her crime still ranks as one of the grisliest in Houston history, her supporters insisted that her Christian rebirth and her efforts to reach beyond her barred prison cell to warn youngsters of the dangers of her former lifestyle were proof she was no longer a danger to society. But those who insisted she should die have maintained that no matter the sometimes-angelic smiling face and twinkling eyes, no amount of changed personality could overcome the horrific facts of her crime.
Tucker and her then-lover Daniel Garrett were condemned by a Houston jury in 1984 for the June 1983 slaying of Dean, a 27-year-old former cable installer. Dean was hacked more than 20 times with one of his own tools -- a 3-foot-long pickax -- as he lay sleeping in his northeast Houston apartment. The motive, Tucker later explained, was to settle a grudge she had against Dean for once parking his leaking motorcycle in her living room and for destroying the only picture she had of herself with her mother. Also killed was Deborah Thornton, 32, an office worker who had fought with her husband and stormed off, only to meet Dean at a party and go home with him. She was lying in bed with Dean when Tucker and Garrett showed up and began their attack. Thornton was hacked more than 20 times, the pickax left embedded in her chest, but neither Dean nor Garrett was ever tried specifically in Thornton's death. Tucker, who was a 23-year-old divorcee, would later claim that she experienced sexual pleasure every time she plunged the heavy ax into her victims.
Garrett, 37, also was sentenced to die for the crime, but he died of liver disease in 1993 while awaiting retrial in connection with Dean's death. Tucker testified against Garrett at his trial, and after she did so, Harris County authorities dropped the second murder charge against her in connection with Thornton's slaying.
Although she pleaded not guilty, once she was convicted, she never again denied the murders, which she said occurred after a weekend of bingeing on drugs and alcohol. Although she claimed her mother introduced her to drugs and urged her into prostitution, she had said, at least in recent weeks, that she no longer blames her mother. Indeed, in her letter pleading to Bush to spare her life, she said, "Justice and law demand my life for the two innocent lives I brutally murdered that night." "If my execution is the only thing, the final act that can fulfill the demand for restitution and justice," she wrote, "then I accept that."
"Texas Executes Tucker," by Rebecca Leung. (February 3, 1998)
Karla Faye Tucker was executed by lethal injection tonight, gasping and coughing twice before she was pronounced dead at 6:45 p.m. Before she was executed, she smiled, asked forgiveness from her victim’s husband and thanked her family, saying “I love you all very much.” It took her eight minutes to die.
Gov. George W. Bush refused to grant Tucker a one-time temporary reprieve, something he has also not done for the 59 men executed during his three years in office. “Like many touched by this case, I have sought guidance through prayer. I have concluded judgment about the heart and soul of an individual on death row are best left to a higher authority,” Bush said. Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, 432 people have been executed nationwide—Tucker is the second woman to be put to death since then.
Case Attracted Worldwide Following
Hundreds gathered outside the prison to protest the execution, carrying signs reading “Execution Is Not the Solution” and “I Oppose the Death Penalty.” Death penalty supporters also showed up, cheering when word came that the execution would proceed. “Karla Faye Tucker will die today,” said Richard Thornton, the husband of one of the victims. “My family and I are very happy about that.” When the news reached the crowd that Tucker had been executed, a cheer rose from death penalty advocates as some sang “Na Na Na Na...Say Goodbye.” Lisa Jackson, who opposes the death penalty and traveled from Michigan, was disheartened by the boisterous reaction. “I think God is sovereign,” she said. “He gives life and he takes life.” The Supreme Court turned down a stay of execution this afternoon, and the Texas parole board also rejected efforts to save Tucker, whose clemency request raised hard questions about the treatment of women and men in the justice system.
First Female Execution Since 1863
Tucker was flown Monday from the female death row at a prison in Gatesville to Huntsville, 80 miles north of Houston, where the state’s executions are carried out. The Texas Board of Pardons and Parole was lobbied by religious broadcaster Pat Robertson, Amnesty International and even the pope, who wanted to give her a life sentence without parole. The board unanimously rejected 16 similar requests last year. Texas, which is responsible for about a third of the executions nationwide, put to death a record 37 death row inmates in 1997. But the state hasn’t executed a woman since the Civil War, when Chipita Rodriguez was hanged for killing a horse trader.
Strange Bedfellows Rally to Her Cause
In 1983, Tucker and her boyfriend, Daniel Ryan Garrett, plunged a pickax at least 20 times into the bodies of Jerry Lynn Dean and Deborah Thornton. Tucker was taped saying the killings enthralled her to the point of sexual ecstasy. Tucker never claimed to be innocent, but said she should be spared the death penalty because she embraced Christianity and was content to spend her life in prison doing God’s work. “Certainly you can’t say that brutally murdering two people is good. It’s not,” said Tucker to ABCNEWS’ Dean Reynolds. “But afterwards, what came from that in me was good.”
Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition and usually a supporter of the death penalty, said the 38-year-old former teenage prostitute, drug user and rock band groupie should be spared to continue preaching God’s word to others in prison. His television program, The 700 Club, broadcast Tucker’s last prison-cell interview today. “There should always be a place for mercy,” said Tucker in her final interview on The 700 Club. “Life is precious, and if we believe life is precious in abortion, or in mercy killing, shouldn’t we believe life is precious in the death penalty?” Pope John Paul appealed for a “humanitarian gesture,” as he has at least a half dozen times for other inmates on death row in America. Her cause also attracted support from around the world, with appeals for clemency from the United Nations and the European Parliament.
A Plea for Mercy
Dismissed as an “aberration of the true female offender” by women’s rights organizations such as the National Center for Women in Prison, Tucker has nevertheless become a potent symbol of how the death penalty is applied across gender lines. But given the recent history of the Texas parole board, even a single vote from the 18-member panel in favor of clemency for a condemned murderer would be unusual. According to parole board chairman Victor Rodriguez, the board voted 16-0 against commutation in Tucker’s case. “There is no question as to their vote.…I myself have no quarrel with the decision to deny Karla Faye Tucker’s request on all fronts this morning,” Rodriguez told a packed news conference in Texas on Monday.
Gender Brought More Attention
Interviews with Tucker have been broadcast on television nationwide, bringing much attention to her plea for mercy. During the 12 months ending June 30, 1997, the number of women under the jurisdiction of state and federal prison authorities grew from 73,565 to 78,067. Women accounted for 6.4 percent of all prisoners nationwide. “Her gender has made this case more prominent, more closely examined. It has made her more personal, more of a human being to the public,” said Richard Dieter, director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a Washington-based advocacy group. “Thinking of this person as a flesh-and-blood human being, a face, a person, has given us reasons why we should think twice of executing her.” However, some say that if Tucker were a man instead of a woman, she would never get such sympathy. “For years, women’s groups have been screaming equal rights, so if you do the crime, you deserve equal punishment,” said Janice Sager, founder of Texans for Equal Justice, a Houston-based victims support group that held a memorial service outside the prison gates. “She should be accountable. It doesn’t matter if she is a woman. Her victims won’t get a second chance.”
Equal Punishment for Equal Crime
Similar claims of conversions by male prisoners, however, have often been disregarded as a right to clemency. “There have been other men who have also had very sincere religious experiences, and that has not availed them anything when it came time to carry out the sentence,” said Lynn Hecht Schafran, a lawyer with the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund. “You can’t just do it because she is a woman.”
But David Dow, professor of law at the University of Houston, says that race and gender are important factors in Tucker’s case. “Of the people who have been executed since 1982, half have found religion, half are either black or Hispanic, and most of them are men. But most of them don’t have the advantage of being physically attractive or articulate as she is, which hurts their case, ” said Dow, who has written on Tucker and the death penalty. “Tucker’s supporters made an exception for her because they saw her as a human being. The question we should be asking ourselves is why so many people saw Tucker’s humanity but refuse to see it in so many others.” (The Associated Press contributed to this report)
"Execution May Haunt Texas; Tucker Case Llikely to Bring Unprecedented Scrutiny," by Kathy Walt.
December 14, 1997 - Conjure the image: An attractive, 38-year-old woman is strapped to a gurney in Texas' execution chamber, her dark, shoulder-length curls splayed across the antiseptic white sheet that covers the hard, cold deathbed. Her charcoal-colored eyes are transfixed ethereally while she utters her final entreaty to the God who she says miraculously transformed her in jail. As a lethal cocktail pumps through her veins, she may involuntarily arch upward -- straining against the leather straps -- and gasp or cough a couple of times before her final breath is expelled in a matter of seconds.
That, critics contend, is an image that will haunt Texans if Karla Faye Tucker, a condemned killer from Houston, is executed early next year.
Contrast that mental portrait of Tucker with the one that state's attorneys, victims' rights groups and others say should be replayed in people's minds: A wild-eyed, 23-year-old prostitute -- after a weekend orgy of methadone, heroin, Dilaudid, Valium, Placidyls, Somas, Wygesics, Percodan, Mandrax, marijuana, rum and tequila -- smiles maniacally at 27-year-old Jerry Lynn Dean. It ticked her off that he once parked his oil-leaking motorcycle in her living room. She takes her first swing with a pickax. Flesh tears. Blood spurts. Bones crack as the 3-foot-long tool thuds first against Dean and later against his companion, 32-year-old Deborah Thornton. By the time the screams end, Tucker and her accomplice will have hacked their victims more than 20 times. The June 1983 murder was one of the grisliest in Houston history, and Tucker could well become the first woman to be executed in Texas since the 1860s. Her accomplice, Daniel Ryan Garrett, also was sentenced to die for his part in the crime. His case was sent back for retrial on appeal, but he died of liver disease in 1993 while waiting for a new trial, still behind bars.
In a state with the most active execution chamber in the nation -- 37 death sentences have been carried out this year alone and 144 since 1982 -- Tucker's case is likely to bring unprecedented scrutiny on Texas and, at least temporarily, refuel the debate over capital punishment. Already, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has been besieged by requests from media around the world wanting to interview the woman who once bragged to her sister that she was sexually gratified each time she axed her victims.
Death penalty opponents, religious leaders and thousands of other people -- mostly outside Texas -- are expected to mount an intense campaign in the coming weeks to try to persuade Gov. George W. Bush to commute Tucker's sentence to life imprisonment. Democrat Garry Mauro -- who is challenging Bush's re-election bid -- said he's glad he does not have to face the issue. "Watching Governor Bush wrestle with that decision, that's the only thing I can think of right now, the only reason I can think of right now that I'm glad I'm not governor," Mauro said. "I do not know what I would do. It's a tough issue. I wish him well on coming to a resolution on it."
Televangelist Pat Robertson told 60 Minutes in a recent interview that Tucker has his support and that if Bush "lets this sweet woman of God die, he's a man who shows no mercy." But that sentiment is not necessarily shared by conservative Christians in Texas. Texas Christian Coalition President Dick Weinhold said he not only personally disagrees with Robertson but knows of no organized effort to spare Tucker's life. "This case has two main themes," Weinhold said. "One is compassion, and one is consequences. "I have a lot of compassion for Karla Faye Tucker. She seems to have strong testimony. Her salvation and conversion seem to be ... very genuine. And her life seems to really have undergone a transformation. So I'm delighted. That is great. "The consequences are that she committed a heinous act. There were two individuals that were murdered. The consequences of her crime call for her death. I don't believe the compassion side should overrule the consequences in this case." "As a Christian, I'm always excited when other people come to Christ, whether it's in a jailhouse or on Wall Street. But I think there's still consequences for our actions.
Dudley Sharp of the Houston-based victims' rights group Justice for All said he expects "religious leaders from all over the world -- not just the pope -- will be putting pressure on the governor" to spare Tucker's life.
For clues about how the coming weeks might play in Texas, rewind to North Carolina, 1984. It was there that "Death Row Granny" Margie Velma Barfield, a born-again Christian who was posthumously praised by Billy Graham for her impact on other prisoners, became the first woman to be put to death in the modern era of the capital punishment. The portly, bespectacled 52-year-old private nurse and former Sunday school teacher was convicted of lacing her boyfriend's food with rat poison. She later admitted to poisoning three others, including her mother. Her case also became a last-minute political issue in a tough U.S. Senate election in which liberal Democrat Gov. Jim Hunt challenged Republican incumbent Sen. Jesse Helms.
Political analysts said Hunt was doomed to be hurt politically regardless of what he did. Had he commuted Barfield's sentence, he risked alienating his conservative pro-death penalty constituency. Some analysts said at the time that his refusal to show compassion toward the woman may have persuaded liberal, anti-death penalty voters to stay away from the polls. Joe Freeman Britt, the former prosecutor who sent Barfield to death row, remembers the pressure that mounted in North Carolina. "There were all these Velma Barfield support groups that grew up all around the nation, all over North Carolina, European countries -- England, France, Finland," Britt recalled. "Everybody involved in the case got tons of letters every day about it from all over the world. That then generated a certain political pressure in the case."
But unlike Tucker's jailhouse conversion, Britt said, Barfield had always professed to being a God-fearing, church-going woman. He said Barfield bolstered her image as a devout Christian by asking her employers -- the families who hired her to care for ailing, elderly relatives whom she later poisoned -- for Wednesday nights and Sundays off so she could go to church. Once imprisoned she, too, began leading Bible studies and counseling troubled female felons. She also uttered a deathbed apology. The image the media portrayed most often was that of a grandmother kneeling in prayer in prison, Britt added, and some of the victims' relatives had a difficult time believing she was capable of the crimes. Britt, however, said he was unfazed by arguments that Barfield should not be executed because of her Christianity -- a claim of which he was skeptical. "I probably brought more people to the Lord than Billy Graham," he said of his work as a prosecutor. "I mean when they go to prison, they all find the Lord ... I hope it's true. I hope they do that. And if (Tucker has) had this experience, that's wonderful. It prepares her better for the judgment under the law."
Although death penalty opponents had predicted a public outrage if North Carolina proceeded with the execution of Barfield, Britt said that never materialized. "I think the biggest flap came from other parts of the country and particularly overseas ... ," he said. One key difference between Tucker's and Barfield's cases is the commutation process. While North Carolina law allows its governor wide discretion in determining whether and when to pardon felons or reduce their sentences, the Texas Constitution allows a governor to take such action only if the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles first recommends it. And even if the board does, the governor may still reject a commutation. Additionally, the state constitution allows the governor to grant a one-time, 30-day delay in an execution. Bush has never granted a 30-day reprieve, but his predecessor, Democrat Ann Richards, did so twice.
Tucker has not yet filed a petition for a reprieve or commutation with the parole board, but her attorney said he plans to ask the governor to commute her sentence. A Jan. 30 execution date has informally been targeted, attorney George "Mac" Secrest of Houston, said he plans to ask Bush to commute his client's sentence.
In interviews with the Chronicle last week, several of the 18 parole board members indicate Tucker will have a tough time convincing them that her death sentence should not be carried out. "It is definitely an uphill challenge," said board member Gerald Garrett, who works in the board's Gatesville office. Any pleas Tucker might make based on her turning her life over to God apparently will not carry much weight with some parole board members. Male convicts have raised the issue before and been rejected. "Religious conversion is not a factor in anything we do," said Victor Rodriguez, board chairman. "I don't expect it to be a factor in this case either."
"Karla Faye Tucker: Why So Many Want to Save Her," by S.C. Gwynne Austin. (January 19, 1998)
Karla Faye Tucker is the nicest woman on death row. She is so nice, in fact, and so well liked by people who know her that it is virtually impossible to look at this attractive, sweet-natured, born-again Christian and imagine the gruesome crime to which she confessed in Houston, Texas, on June 13, 1983. Back then she was a drug-addicted prostitute who, during a weekend orgy with her boyfriend, had consumed an astonishing quantity of heroin, Valium, speed, percodan, mandrax, marijuana, dilaudid, methadone, tequila and rum. The two then took a pickax and hacked to death Jerry Lynn Dean, 27, her ex-lover, and Deborah Thornton, 32, his companion of the moment, while they slept. Tucker, who left the pickax embedded in Thornton's chest, boasted at her trial that she had experienced an orgasm with each swing of the ax.
She was convicted in 1984 and sentenced to death. Fourteen years later, in the state with the busiest execution chamber in the land, Tucker now finds herself next in line to die. Barring a last-minute delay or commutation, on Feb. 3 she will be strapped to a gurney in Huntsville, Texas, and given a lethal injection that will stop her heart. If that happens, she will become the first woman executed in Texas since Chipita Rodriguez was hanged in 1863 for killing a horse trader--and the first woman in the U.S. since Velma ("Death Row Granny") Barfield was put to death in North Carolina in 1984 for poisoning her boyfriend.
There is no doubt that Tucker is guilty. She says so herself. What makes her case striking is not just her gender but also her apparently profound conversion to Christianity. The latter has prompted an unlikely cohort of supporters to come to her defense at the 11th hour, including Deborah Thornton's brother and Jerry Lynn Dean's sister, the homicide detective who put her on death row, several former prosecutors, televangelist Pat Robertson and thousands of citizens. Her staunchest supporter is Dana Brown, the prison chaplain she met and married two years ago--a relationship that has never been consummated, even by a kiss, because death-row inmates are not allowed contact with visitors. Says Tucker's attorney, George ("Mac") Secrest: "If ever there was a case for commutation, this is the one."
Skeptics respond that jailhouse conversions are both commonplace and not relevant in deciding who receives a pardon. And in spite of efforts to save her, it seems unlikely that either the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles or Governor George W. Bush, who must concur for a sentence to be commuted, will block her execution. Bush, a law-and-order Republican facing a re-election campaign this year, would seem to gain little politically by such a move. Moreover, there simply are not the requisite legal questions or doubts about her guilt that might prompt commutation. Pardon has never been given to anyone in Texas based on religious conversion.
None of which will make it any easier to watch the pleasant, earnestly friendly Tucker become the 145th person killed since Texas resumed the death penalty in 1982. She has said repeatedly in interviews that she is "far removed" from the person who committed the crime. But she is the person almost certain to die for it.
"Two New Stamps Memorialize Tucker," by Eric Berger. (March 16, 1998).
A group of Texans opposed to the death penalty joined with a Danish human rights group Monday to release new stamps commemorating Karla Faye Tucker, the first woman executed in Texas since 1863. The stamps, which cannot be used to mail letters or packages, are similar in function to Easter Seals. "These two stamps of Karla F. Tucker have been made in the hope they will remind you of a human being killed by the state of Texas," said Karen Grue of the Denmark-based group Living Artists, which designed the stamps.
There are two designs, both featuring the same face of a smiling Tucker. In one, she appears in front of a prison gurney similar to the one on which she was executed on Feb. 3 at age 38. On the other stamp, she appears opposite an American flag with an oil rig in the background. The stamps, intended to put a human face on those executed, are being distributed locally by the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and overseas by Amnesty International's office in Copenhagen.
The president of Justice For All, a local victim's rights group, called the stamps a poorly conceived idea. "Once again, the victims are disregarded and forgotten," said Dianne Clements. "It is an insult to the surviving family members, not to mention the sensibilities of caring individuals, who realize it is twisted and contemptuous to glorify a murder." But the anti-death penalty coalition members said the stamps are not intended to detract from the memory of victims, but to protest what they call a barbarous process. "This stamp is a reaction and protest to the death penalty by the people of Europe," said David Atwood, coordinator of the Texas coalition.
Richard Thornton, the husband of Tucker's victim, said, "It is most unfortunate that the artists who were motivated to produce this work were so horribly misinformed as to the true character of the person portrayed by them. The work would have been closer to the truth if it had included a pickax and a great deal of blood."
Texas v. Karla Faye Tucker - Background Report: A Question of Mercy. (Link to summary and full text of 150 page Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus filed in 1998 on behalf of Karla Faye Tucker)
Should Karla Faye Tucker die? This was the question that the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Gov. George W. Bush faced in the weeks leading up to Tucker's execution. However, on February 3, 1998, Gov. Bush and the Texas Board of Pardons answered that question when Tucker was executed by lethal injection.
In 1984, Tucker was convicted of the brutal murders of her ex-lover, Jerry Lynn Dean, and his companion, Deborah Thornton and sentenced to the death penalty. During her trial, Tucker admitted that on June 13, 1983, she and her boyfriend at the time, Daniel Ryan Garrett, took a pickax and hacked Dean and Thornton to death while they were sleeping. (Garrett was also convicted of murder and sentenced to the death penalty. However, he died of liver disease while in prison in 1994.) At the murder scene, investigators found the pickax still embedded in Thornton's chest. Tucker even boasted at her trial that she experienced an orgasm each time she plunged the ax down upon her victims. Back then, Tucker was a drug addict and prostitute who seemed unrepentant, and even proud, of her actions.
In various pleas to save her life, Tucker's supporters and lawyer claimed that Tucker, 38, was not the same woman who committed those brutal murders nearly 15 years ago. She was a born-again Christian, and with her "girl-next-door" attractiveness, sometimes it may seem hard to believe that she could have committed such gruesome murders. But Tucker and her lawyer, David Botsford, freely admitted her guilt. Because of her conversion to Christianity, apparent rehabilitation and virtually spotless disciplinary record while in prison, Botsford and other supporters believed that Tucker should be spared the death penalty. Tucker's detractors said that religious conversions for inmates are common and are not a legitimate basis for a pardon from the death penalty.
A Plea for Mercy
On January 20, 1997, attorneys for Tucker filed a petition to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and state district court in Houston to postpone Tucker's execution so that they could have more time to challenge the constitutionality of the state's clemency procedure. In the 155-page court document, Tucker's lawyers reportedly stressed that Tucker was fully rehabilitated and demonstrated during her 14-year imprisonment that she posed no future threat to society. In seeking a pardon from the death penalty, Tucker asked that her sentence be reduced to life imprisonment. Under that sentence, Tucker would have been eligible for parole in 2003.
Reportedly, Tucker's petition was also accompanied by approximately 200 pages of exhibits supporting her plea. Among the exhibits was a Tucker wrote to Gov. Bush and members of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, telling them that her crime was "the most horrible nightmare of my life" and that she is no longer a threat to society.
Tucker's Supporters and the Odds Against Her
According to court papers, Tucker and Garrett killed Jerry Lynn Dean and Deborah Thornton when they broke into Dean's apartment to steal motorcycle parts. Garrett was surprised to find Dean home, asleep in his bed, and proceeded to beat him over the head with a hammer. Tucker then struck Dean with a three-foot ax more than 20 times to stop the gurgling sound he was making. Seeing that Thornton was under the bedsheets next to Dean, Tucker then turned the ax on her.
A pardon from a death sentence in Texas reportedly has never been granted to anyone based on a religious conversion. And of the 36 pardons that have been granted to Texas death-row inmates since 1976, not one has been granted solely for humanitarian reasons. In addition, Gov. Bush, who would have had to approve the pardon with a majority vote by the parole board, publicly said that in evaluating Tucker's case, he would only consider whether there was any doubt she committed the crime and whether she had a fair trial.
Karla Faye Tucker's case attracted a group of supporters that include Rev. Pat Robertson, the homicide detective who recommended that she get the death penalty in the first place, thousands of citizens, and even some support from her victims' siblings. Tucker married a prison chaplain, Dana Brown, two years ago, and he remained by her side until her execution. Tucker was the first woman executed in the United States since 1984, coincidentally the year of her conviction.
A Series of Appeals Rejected
Karla Faye Tucker's appeal to halt her execution was rejected by the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals on January 28, 1998, less than a week before her scheduled execution. Tucker's lawyers had argued Texas's procedure for commuting death sentences, claiming that the law provides no guidelines for parole board members in considering clemency for death row inmates. The following week, on February 2, 1998 (the eve of Tucker's scheduled execution), the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, which could have recommend a pardon for Tucker to Gov. George Bush, rejected her request to have her death sentence changed to life in prison.
On February 3, Tucker's last chance to avoid the death penalty lied with the U.S. Supreme Court, which considered her petition for a stay of the execution. But the Supreme Court denied the request, clearing the way for Tucker's execution later that day.
Her death breaks with traditional queasiness over such punishment for female criminals. Legal scholars say fewer women are given capital sentences because they are less likely to kill. September 24, 2010| By Carol J. Williams, Los Angeles Times
Virginia put to death a 41-year-old woman Thursday night, the first execution of a female in the country in five years and the first in that state for nearly a century.
The lethal-injection death of Teresa Lewis, convicted of the 2002 contract killing of her husband and stepson, broke with a tradition of societal "queasiness" about executing women, one legal expert said. It could also psychologically clear the way to carrying out death sentences on others among the 60 condemned women in the nation — including 18 in California, according to some capital punishment observers.
Lewis' death sentence was only the 12th carried out against a woman prisoner in the 34 years since capital punishment was restored as a sentencing option. In that same period, 1,214 men have been put to death.
Legal scholars attribute the "gender bias" in executions to women's lower propensity to kill and the tendency of those who do to kill a husband, lover or child in the heat of emotion, seldom with the "aggravating factors" states require for a death sentence. Lewis pleaded guilty to having arranged the killings to collect $250,000 in insurance money on her stepson.
"The way capital punishment statutes are written inadvertently favor women. They make it a worse crime if a homicide is committed during a felony, like robbery or rape, which are rarely involved in women's homicides," said Victor Streib, a Northern Ohio University law professor who has spent 30 years researching condemned women. "It's also easier to convince a jury that women suffer emotional distress or other emotional problems more than men."
Still, Streib added, "there are some cases that can't be explained by anything except a queasiness at executing women. We just seem to be reluctant to do that."
Lewis was the first woman to be executed in Virginia since 1912, when a 17-year-old African American maid named Virginia Christian was sent to the electric chair for killing her employer after being accused of stealing a locket.
Lewis was the only woman on death row in a state that is second in the number of executions since 1976, with 107 compared with Texas' 463.
Texas carried out the last female execution in the United States on Sept. 14, 2005. Frances Newton was put to death by lethal injection for the murders of her husband and two children. Prosecutors said she wanted to collect $100,000 in insurance money.
Judias "Judy" Buenoano
(born Judias Welty, also known as Judias Goodyear, also known as Judias Morris) (April 4, 1943 - March 30, 1998), was a convicted murderer who was executedfor the 1971 murder of her husband James Goodyear. She was also convicted for the 1980 murder of her son Michael Goodyear, and of the 1983 attempted murder of her fiancé John Gentry. She is also acknowledged to have been responsible for the 1978 death of her boyfriend Bobby Joe Morris in Colorado; however, by the time authorities made the connection between Buenoano and Morris, she had already been sentenced to death in the state of Florida. She is also believed to have been involved in a 1974 murder in Alabama; on his deathbed, Bobby Joe Morris confessed to having participated in that murder, but police were unable to find enough evidence to press charges. She was also suspected in the 1980 death of her boyfriend Gerald Dossett. After her arrest, Dossett's body was exhumed and analysed for signs of arsenic poisoning. No charges were laid in that case.
Buenoano was the first woman to be executed in Florida since 1848 (when a slave named Celia was hanged for killing her master), and was only the third woman to be executed in the United States since the reinstatement of capital punishment in 1976. Nationally, she was the first woman executed in the electric chair since 1957, when Rhonda Belle Martin was electrocuted inAlabama.Crimes
In 1971, she was married to James Goodyear (1934–1971), a sergeant in the United States Air Force. According to prosecutors, she was motivated by insurance money when she poisonedhim with lethal doses of arsenic. However, his death was initially believed to be due to natural causes.
In 1973, she moved in with Bobby Joe Morris (?-1978); in January 1978, he succumbed to arsenic poisoning. Later that year, she legally changed her name to "Buenoano" (corruptedSpanish for "good year," from "buen año").
Buenoano's son Michael Goodyear (1961–1980) became severely ill in 1979, his symptoms including paraplegia; post-mortem examination indicated that he had been the victim of severe arsenic poisoning, which caused his disability. In 1980, Buenoano took Michael out in acanoe; the canoe rolled, and Michael, weighed down by his arm and leg braces, drowned.
In 1983, Buenoano was engaged to John Gentry. Gentry was severely injured when his car exploded. While he was recovering from his injuries, police began to find several discrepancies in Buenoano's background; further investigation revealed that, in November 1982, she had begun telling her friends that Gentry was suffering from a terminal illness. Upon learning this, Gentry provided police with the "vitamin pills" which Buenoano had been giving him; these were found to contain arsenic and formaldehyde. This led to the exhumations of Michael Goodyear, James Goodyear, and Bobby Joe Morris, and to the discovery that each man had been the victim of arsenic poisoning.
In 1984, Buenoano was convicted for the murders of Michael and James Goodyear, and in 1985 she was convicted for the attempted murder of John Gentry. She received a twelve-year sentence for the Gentry case, a life sentence for the Michael Goodyear case, and a death sentence for the James Goodyear case. She was convicted of multiple counts of grand theft (for insurance fraud), and is thought to have committed multiple acts of arson (again, for purposes of insurance fraud).
Betty Lou Beets
On August 6, 1983, Beets reported that her husband was missing from their home near Cedar Creek Lake, in Henderson County, Texas. Her son, Robert Branson, would later testify that Beets had said that she intended to kill her husband and told her son to leave the house. On returning two hours later to the house, he found Jimmy Don Beets dead with two gunshot wounds. He helped his mother conceal the body in the front yard of the house, after which Beets telephoned the police.
According to her son, the next day, Beets took some of Jimmy Don's heart medication and put it in his fishing boat. Branson and Beets then left the boat in the lake. It was found on August 12, 1983, washed ashore near the Redwood Beach Marina, after three weeks of unsuccessful searching by law enforcement officials.
Two years later, information was received by the Henderson County Sheriff that led to enough evidence to arrest Beets for the murder on June 8, 1985. A search warrant was issued and a search of Beets's home found the remains of Jimmy Don. Also found buried in a garage were the remains of Doyle Wayne Barker, another husband of Beets. Both had been shot with a .38 caliber pistol. She was never tried for Barker's murder. Jimmy Don Beets was her fifth husband. She was sentenced to death by lethal injection.Trial and procedural history Mountain View Unit, where Beets was held on death row
Her trial for the murder for remuneration and the promise of remuneration of Jimmy Don Beets began on July 11, 1985 in the 173rd District Court of Henderson County. She pleaded not guilty and claimed that two of her children had committed the murders. She was found guilty on October 11. The evidence of her being abused was never presented to the court. Three days later, during the separate penalty phase, she was sentenced to death. As with all death sentences in Texas, there was an automatic appeal to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which first overturned the conviction, saying that insurance and pension benefits were not the same as remuneration. The State requested a rehearing on September 21, 1988 and this time the Court ruled the conviction and sentence should stand.
Ten years of appeals followed. The Supreme Court of the United States denied a writ of certiorarion June 26, 1989, and an execution date was set for November 8. On November 1, she received a stay from the trial court after she filed a state habeas petition. The Court of Criminal Appeals denied this request on June 27, 1990, leading to a second execution date of December 6. A federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus was filed three days before her scheduled execution and the federal district court granted a stay of execution on December 4. Throughout the first half of 1991, evidentiary hearings were held and on May 9 the court granted relief on one of Beets's claims, but denied all others. The United States Court of Appeals upheld the decision on March 18, 1993, but also overturned the one claim that had been granted relief. The case was sent to a federal district court and on September 2, 1998, it denied her habeas corpus relief. After her appeals were denied throughout 1999, an execution date was set for February 24, 2000.Huntsville Unit, where Beets died
She was executed by lethal injection at 6:18 p.m. CST in the Huntsville Unit. She did not request a final meal, nor did she make a final statement. She was the second woman executed in the state after the reintroduction of the death penalty. At the time of the execution, she was 62 years old, and had five children, nine grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Christina Marie Riggs
Riggs, a licensed nurse, was convicted of murder by smothering her two preschool-aged children in their beds at the family's Sherwood home. On November 4, 1997, Riggs obtained the anti-depressant Elavil from her pharmacist, the painkiller morphine and the toxic potassium chloride from the hospital where she worked. The heart-stopping potassium chloride is the same drug used in the lethal cocktail injected into condemned inmates in the death house. Riggs gave the children a small amount of Elavil to put them to sleep. Then she placed each of the children in their beds. About 10 p.m., she injected 5 year old Justin with undiluted potassium chloride. But unless it is diluted, the drug causes burning and pain. Justin woke and cried out in terror. She then smothered the boy with a pillow. Moving to her 2 year old Shelby, Riggs passed on the potassium chloride injection because of the pain it had caused Justin. She suffocated her daughter with a pillow. Riggs then placed the children side-by-side on her bed and covered them with a blanket. She wrote suicide notes, took 28 Elavil tablets, normally a lethal dose, and injected herself with enough undiluted potassium chloride to kill five people. The Elavil took effect, and she fell unconscious to the floor. The next day, she was discovered by her mother and rushed to the hospital. At her June 1998 trial, Riggs contended she was not guilty by reason of insanity, blaming chronic, acute depression, but the Pulaski County jury convicted her. During the penalty phase, Riggs would not allow attorneys to put on a defense, saying she wanted a death sentence. The jury obliged.
Riggs was the fifth woman executed in the United States since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976. She was also the first woman executed in Arkansas in more than 150 years.
One week before her death by lethal injection, Christina Riggs sat for an interview. She said she wanted people to understand what she was thinking when she smothered her children.
CATHY FRYE ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE
Dear Mom, I’m sorry for the pain I have caused you throughout my life. … I hope that one day you will forgive me for taking my life and the life of my children. But I can’t live like this anymore and I couldn’t bare to leave my children behind to be a burden on you or to be separated and raised apart by their fathers and live knowing their mother killed herself. … I’m sorry Momma. Love your daughter, Chrissy
IT’S A SUNNY Tuesday afternoon, exactly one week before Christina Riggs’ execution, and she is matter-of-factly describing her funeral arrangements.
There will be a small, family service in a rural Oklahoma town. She’ll be buried next to her children.
Riggs says she is ready to die, that this is what she wanted 21/2 years ago when she killed her little boy and girl, swallowed 28 anti-depressants and injected herself with potassium chloride.
In seven days on May 2, at the Cummins Unit’s death house, potassium chloride will be one of three drugs pumped into Riggs’ veins.
This time, she says, it should do the job.
Some people wonder if the 28-year-old former nurse will change her mind. All she has to do to stop the execution is speak up. The machinery will shudder to a stop and all of the appeals she has thus far waived will go before various courts.
Won’t happen, Riggs says. It’s time.
That her first try at death didn’t work was a terrible blow, she says. But a second opportunity presented itself when she was convicted of capital murder for the deaths of her two children. That’s when she begged jurors to give her the death penalty.
She won’t appeal. Nor will she ask the governor for clemency as her execution date draws nearer.
Riggs has never spoken publicly about what she did in the late hours of Nov. 4, 1997, fearful that any coverage of her case might prompt people to intervene.
In a phone call from death row, just a week before this interview, she was reluctant to agree to a meeting. “An interview?” a husky voice inquired wryly. “When would it run?”
After a lengthy conversation, Riggs finally conceded. “I’ll talk to you. But only if this is running afterward. … I don’t want any publicity.”
Nor, she said, does she want sympathy.
But she will try to explain what thoughts were skittering through her mind on the night she killed Justin, 5, and Shelby, 2. She will talk about how her life slid out of control.
Maybe her story will help somebody else, she says.
“I’m at peace.” — Christina Riggs, one week before her execution .
Riggs cheerfully introduces herself through a small hole in the glass that separates her from visitors to the McPherson Unit in Newport.
She is swigging Coke and joking with her attorney, rolling her eyes at what she has deemed one of his not-so-clever puns.
Her dark hair, once long and wavy, has been bobbed well above her shoulders. Always prone to gaining weight, Riggs has put on 53 pounds since her incarceration began. She’s now past the 270 mark. About four weeks ago, prison officials put her on a six-month diet normally prescribed for diabetics.
Riggs was incredulous. “I’m about to die, and they’re worried about my weight?” she scoffs. And besides, she adds, 53 pounds isn’t that bad, especially given that smoking was recently banned, and she spends 22 hours each day in her cell.
Maybe they’re afraid she’ll be so fat that they won’t be able to find a vein, she jokes.
Everything about Riggs is big — from her low-alto voice to the wide smile she flashes the guard who is supervising today’s visit.
She’s 28, Riggs tells her guests. She’ll be 29 in September. Her attorney cocks an eyebrow and Riggs giggles.
“No — would have been 29,” she adds, cracking up again. “Ha-ha. Sorry, just a little gurney humor.”
Ever since her arrest 21/2 years ago, Riggs’ readiness to laugh has often prompted criticism. It shows a lack of remorse, people say.
This upsets Riggs. Anyone who knows her is well aware of just how sorry she is, she says. They know of the many hours she has spent weeping, of the hundreds of journal entries in which she wishes she could take it all back.
But what truly angers her is the criticism of her parenting skills.
She was a good mom, she says indignantly. The only thing she was bad at was planning an effective suicide, one in which the whole family was expected to die peacefully together.
“If they had said, ‘We know you loved your kids, but the fact is you did something wrong and you’re going to have to pay for it,’ I could accept that,” she says.
Looking back now, she was trying to say something and I just didn’t see it.” — Riggs’ mother, Carol Thomas, describing Riggs’ behavior in the days before Justin and Shelby’s deaths.
For the rest of her life, Thomas will relive the horror she felt as she stumbled through her daughter’s darkened Sherwood home to get help, frantic and sobbing, on the rainy evening of Nov. 5, 1997.
Unnerved by Riggs’ strange behavior over the past few days, Thomas had driven over to her daughter’s house to check on her.
She cut a zigzag path through the small home, flicking on lights as she went, until she reached Riggs’ wood-paneled bedroom.
In the large bed, with a comforter pulled about halfway over their small bodies, lay Justin and Shelby. The little girl’s head, covered with sleep-tousled curls, rested on her brother’s shoulder.
Riggs lay on the floor, just beyond the foot of the bed. She had urinated on herself.
All three appeared to be dead. “My God — carbon monoxide!” Thomas thought as she raced back through the house and to her car. She grabbed her phone off the seat and called 911.
The scene that greeted officers left them shaken. Two children, so very young, were dead. And at first glance, police would later testify, it looked as though the children’s mother also was deceased.
On a cluttered night stand, police found a spiral notebook with three suicide notes — two versions written to Thomas and a short letter intended for Riggs’ sister, Rosie. They would later learn that a fourth note had been mailed to Riggs’ ex-husband, Jon.
Also on the night stand were two syringes, an empty bottle of anti-depressants and vials of potassium chloride and morphine.
Dear Momma, I love you so much I’m sorry forgive me. I didn’t do this lightly, this is something that has been on my mind ever since Scott left me. I loved him so much and so do the kids and to be tossed away as if I meant nothing to him killed a part of me that I haven’t been able to get over …
Carol Thomas, 52, fidgets with the gold, heart-shaped locket around her neck.
How is this justice? she wants to know. She already lost her grandchildren. And now — after all the effort to save her daughter’s life — everything has come full circle. The state is going to finish what Riggs started, she says.
Prosecutors suggested at the trial’s end that Riggs was trying to con the jury when she begged for death. A little reverse psychology, so to speak.
Riggs says that wasn’t the case. She isn’t sure whether her execution could be considered a state-assisted suicide, as her attorney has claimed.
“I see it as man’s punishment, although I can go both ways in how I look at it,” Riggs says. “At my trial, they said I was a manipulative person, that I don’t really want to die and so on.
“But when I’m laying on that table, I’ll say, ‘Thank you for finishing what I started out 21/2 years ago.’ “
Her mother has promised that she won’t try to stop her.
“We have discussed this at great length,” Thomas says. “I think it would be selfish of me to want her to continue to live in the pain she’s in. I don’t think I could live with myself if I had done what she did, so I can understand.
“But if she came to me today and said, ‘I want to live, I don’t want to die,’ I would move this end of heaven and hell to help her.”
Thomas tugs again on her locket, which holds two pictures.
On one side, there is a photo of Justin and Shelby.
On the other, Christina.
Dear Jon, By the time you get this letter I will have taken my life and the kids. I know this may come as a shock but I’m not as strong as you thought. … You’re probably wondering why the kids too. It was because I didn’t want to leave them to be a burden on Mom or anyone else or to be separated …
The demons crawled out of the shadows at precisely the worst period in her life, Riggs says.
She was slipping into debt and still mourning a breakup that had happened nearly a year ago. These problems caused her to begin brooding over painful childhood memories and failed relationships.
Nothing, she concluded, had ever worked out for her. Things weren’t likely to change. She kept up a positive front not only for her family, but her co-workers at the Arkansas Heart Hospital.
Meanwhile, the utilities were being turned on and off, and a judge had threatened to send her to jail the next time she bounced a check, Riggs says.
But all these problems were only the catalyst for what happened at 8015 Bronco Lane, Riggs says. Depression is mostly to blame.
“I’d wait until the kids went to bed and I would just fall apart,” she says. “Or I would go in the bathroom and bawl at work. If people asked what was wrong, I told them I had a migraine, that I didn’t feel well.”
That’s what she told her mother on that last day.
Over the years, Riggs had flirted with thoughts of killing herself. Testimony during her trial revealed that she was once prescribed Prozac after telling a doctor about the depression she couldn’t seem to overcome.
But while Riggs often thought that suicide sounded tempting, she decided she couldn’t go through with it. There were her kids to consider. What would her death do to them? What would become of them?
Her oldest child, Justin, a lively towhead, was the result of a brief fling before Christina married Jon Riggs. But Justin always thought of Jon as his daddy.
Shelby, affectionately known as “Miss Priss” by her doting grandma and the owner of a irresistible grin, was conceived after Christina and Jon married.
Riggs believes her suicide would have split up the children if each father decided to pursue custody.
“Justin was only 5,” she continues. “And for the rest of his life, he would be thinking: ‘My mother killed herself. The man I believed to be my father isn’t. And now he’s taken my sister away and I have to go live with somebody else.’ “
But what if no one wanted them? Riggs fretted.
Both scenarios made her kids’ future look pretty dismal, she says.
Justin, who took medicine for attention-deficit disorder and extreme hyperactivity, was an unstoppable handful who often overtaxed his baby sitters. He wore out Riggs’ mother nearly every afternoon, after she picked him up at day care. Sometimes, people simply refused to look after the little boy, saying they just weren’t up to it.
Riggs remembers growing up with a father who wouldn’t claim her and a stepfather who lost interest in her. That’s not what she wanted for her own children.
So a day or two before her suicide attempt, she revised her plans.
She would take Justin and Shelby with her.
“That is the sad thing — it seemed rational at the time,” Riggs says. “I was going to protect them from the life I lived as a child.”
Dear Rosie, I’m sorry, I need you to take care of Momma. She’s gonna need you more than ever. Stay close to her. This is gonna be hard for her. And I’m truly sorry, I’m just so tired. You’ve been a great sister — I love you. I’m so sorry. Please forgive me. Love your lil sis Chrissy
Her plan, Riggs thought, was perfect.
She would give Justin and Shelby half a tablet each of Elavil, an anti-depressant that Riggs had been taking sporadically for back pain.
Once the children were dozing, she would inject each of them with potassium chloride. Then she would take the rest of the Elavil and inject herself.
But things went horribly wrong .
Along with being an executioner’s drug, potassium chloride also is used to help heart patients. But whether it is intended to kill or heal, the drug can be delivered only in a diluted form and only intravenously, which helps it enter the body slowly. If given as a shot, it immediately burns up both the skin and the veins, making it impossible for it to reach the heart.
Because it is so lethal, nurses have the option of refusing to administer potassium chloride. Riggs figured it would be the perfect way to kill herself. She says she got the idea one day when she and her fellow nurses were standing around talking about the easiest form of suicide.
“If you use a gun, you can end up a vegetable. Slit your wrists and there’s a bloody mess,” she says. “With this, it would be no pain, no mess, no nothing. I just thought, ‘Man, a sudden push and then …’ “
Riggs says she wasn’t aware that directly injecting potassium chloride would not only be futile, but painful. If anything, she says, she thought a shot would be quicker and more effective than using an IV and letting it trickle in.
She found out her mistake when she tried to inject Justin in the neck.
Even half-asleep, the little boy cried out in pain. “Mama! Mama! It hurts!”
“I panicked,” Riggs says, beginning to cry. She pauses for a moment, collects herself and continues. “It was such a shock. I didn’t know it was going to hurt him. I didn’t want him to hurt.”
She had some leftover morphine in one of her uniform pockets. So Riggs injected Justin with that, hoping to stop the pain.
Then she smothered him with a pillow.
Then she smothered Shelby.
According to doctors’ testimony, it takes three to six minutes to kill someone this way. Riggs won’t talk about those last long minutes of either child’s life.
She only cries.
“Everything else you’ve read is correct,” she finally mumbles, unwilling to further discuss Justin’s and Shelby’s deaths.
Riggs carried the tiny bodies to her room and tucked them into her bed. Then she wrote four suicide letters. The ones for her sister and mother were left in a spiral notebook on her night stand.
The one to Jon Riggs was put into an envelope.
“Then I took it out to the mailbox and left the deadbolt undone so that my mother would be able to get in. I’ve always wondered what the mailman thought once he heard about what happened.”
Riggs took the rest of the Elavil and then tried to inject her right arm with the remaining potassium chloride, a more-than-lethal dose.
But the drug ate a hole in her arm and collapsed the vein.
Riggs passed out.
Ladies and gentlemen, our civilization is based on the ability of women to bear children. And the very fabric that holds families together is that center person. And that’s always the mother. It’s the glue that makes everything stick. It’s always been that way. It always will be or it should be unless we allow this defendant to tear away the one thing we know to be true more than anything else in the world, unless we allow her to rip away at the very beliefs that we have grown up with and trusted all our lives — that a mother would never harm her children. — Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Melody Piazza, addressing the jury during closing arguments at Riggs’ trial.
In this case, she survived, so immediately, she’s demonized. — Defense attorney John Wesley Hall Jr.
“I was by no means Beaver Cleaver’s mother, but I was doing the best I knew how to do,” Riggs says, still angry about the jury’s conclusion that she was a single mom who simply wanted to get rid of two kids who kept her tied down.
“Never once, not once, did I see them as an inconvenience.”
Witnesses testified that Riggs had left her children locked in a bedroom on several occasions and lied to friends about a baby sitter coming over whenever she wanted to go out to karaoke bars.
Riggs’ mother was infuriated by these contentions.
“As a mom, I did not like to hear that she was not a good mother, that she was some party girl who didn’t want her kids anymore,”
Carol Thomas says heatedly. “That’s garbage.”
She knew better than anyone how Riggs’ children were being treated, Thomas says. After all, she picked them up from day care each afternoon and kept them until Riggs’ shift ended.
“Did she ever leave my grandchildren alone? No — and I know this because Justin would have told me if she locked him in his room and left him there. People don’t realize how much I was there, how involved I was in raising those kids.”
Riggs was the kind of mom who kept plenty of Kool-Aid stocked in a refrigerator covered with her children’s artwork, her family says.
Justin and Shelby shared a room. Each side was decorated to that child’s taste.
Thomas points to Justin’s fifth birthday, when Riggs hocked the VCR so she could afford the party at Chuck E. Cheese that she had promised him the year before.
Riggs says she spent three weeks planning her suicide, and at the same time, trying to figure out a way to leave Justin and Shelby behind with a few positive memories of their mother.
Two weeks before the children’s deaths, she took out a cash advance and used most of the money to take her children out for “the perfect day,” she says.
First they went to a birthday party at the local roller rink. Then they headed to a dollar movie, Hercules , and because the kids were so small, Riggs sat with her thighs draped over the edge of each of their seats to keep Justin and Shelby from bobbing up. They wrapped up the day with pizza.
“I wanted them to have some good memories of their mother,” she says. “I didn’t know I was going to be the one left behind.”
Love is not … incest, rape or violence. Love is not hate. Love is not … lying fighting Love is not … having to say you’re sorry — poem written by Riggs in one of her high school diaries
There are so many reasons Riggs was unhappy, her family says. But no one knew what those were until it was too late.
As a child, she was molested by a family member, according to trial testimony.
At 15, Riggs got pregnant, which horrified her mother. “I had a rough life, married young,” Thomas says. “I just didn’t want to see this happen [to her].”
Riggs decided to have the baby but gave it up for adoption. “I thought she got over it, but …” Thomas’ voice trails off.
In one of her suicide notes, Riggs talks about the baby she had given up, writing: “Do with my stuff as you see fit, but please keep something back that you think my 1st baby might like to have if he should ever find you and tell him how hard it was for me to let him go and how much I loved him.”
The next time Riggs got pregnant, it was by a young military man named Tim, who made it clear he wanted nothing to do with Riggs or the baby. Eventually, he agreed to pay child support and wanted to begin visiting his son. But for most of Justin’s short life, the little boy would know Jon Riggs as his father.
Jon and Christina met and dated in high school, just outside Oklahoma City. They married in 1993 and had Shelby shortly after. By 1996, the couple had moved from Oklahoma to Little Rock, where Christina’s mother was living.
The marriage, troubled from the beginning, fell apart in February 1996. According to court testimony, Riggs had trouble getting her ex-husband to pay child support for Shelby, which added to her financial problems. Nor did he seem interested in seeing the little girl once he moved back to Oklahoma, Riggs says.
Jon Riggs’ Oklahoma City number has been temporarily disconnected, so he couldn’t be reached for comment for this story.
During the punishment phase of Riggs’ trial, he was the sole witness for the prosecution.
“I miss her,” he said of Shelby’s death. “It’s been hard for me. I may never have a chance of having kids again. I know that’s nobody’s fault but my own. It just hurts because that was the only family that I had and it’s been ripped from me.”
Given that Jon Riggs never seemed interested in Shelby after the divorce, Christina says, she was infuriated to hear him testify about how he would never get to be a part of Shelby’s life.
“My question is, ‘How long was Shelby going to have to wait for that to happen?’ ” she says. After the children’s deaths, Christina’s older sister, Liz Nottingham, decided she had to see for herself what had been going on in her little sister’s life.
What had she and other family members missed?
She and Thomas scoured Riggs’ house, poring over bills, reading journals and examining letters. They were stunned by what they read.
It was only then that they began talking about the family’s history, which is cluttered with depression, mental illness and attempted suicides, Nottingham says.
One cousin had succeeded in killing himself, and Riggs’ grandmother was in and out of mental institutions, according to court testimony.
Thomas told jurors she had tried to kill herself when Riggs was still a baby.
And Nottingham attempted suicide as a teen-ager, but instead spent the night throwing up after her mother found her. She’s been on and off anti-depressants ever since.
While Nottingham thinks she truly understands her sister’s wish to die, it’s still difficult to sit back and watch Christina ignore each opportunity to appeal her case.
“It’s tough because it’s so wrong,” Nottingham says.
“On one hand, I think this was a terrible injustice — sentencing to death someone who could benefit from psychological treatment, someone who could have done OK one day in society. What she had — depression — can be turned around. So I wonder, ‘What if she got a new trial? What if they put her in a hospital?’
“But then another question hits us: ‘Can you ever get over killing your kids?’ “
There are people who are insane and yet there are people who just do insane things. — Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Melody Piazza
One truth in this case is that if Christina Riggs had died we wouldn’t be here. She would have been written off as a disturbed mother, and no one would have dug into it to find out why this happened. But she lived. — Defense attorney John Wesley Hall Jr.
Riggs has a theory about why she didn’t die when her children did.
She believes she was saved so she could seek forgiveness for killing Justin and Shelby. Also, she has realized that suicide is a sin, which means that even if she hadn’t committed murder beforehand, she still would have gone to hell.
Now she is ensured a spot in heaven.
Riggs didn’t want a prison term or even a stint at the State Hospital, she says. If she’d gotten help before killing her children, perhaps…
But there’s no way she can ever get over what she’s done. It’s too late, she says. She should have died when Justin and Shelby did. But since she didn’t, she will die now.
“If I had been convicted for, say, manslaughter, I would have left here the same way I came in here,” she says. “The same is true for the State Hospital.
“All along, I kept saying, this is what I wanted. If they convicted me of capital murder, I wanted the death penalty.”
Tonight, Riggs will get her wish.
Tuesday afternoon is rainy. The extra guards stationed at the prison’s roadblock seek shelter in a large tent. Television reporters fret about how they will “go live” outside with the weather as bad as it is.
Riggs spends most of the afternoon with her attorney and a couple of ministers. She eats about half of her last meal — a supreme pizza, salad, pickled okra, strawberry shortcake and a cherry limeade.
At 7:18 p.m., Riggs is curling her hair, according to the prison’s death-watch log. She meets with her ministers once more, and then sings a cappella an old country ballad by The Judds. At 8:16 p.m., she puts on her makeup and dons pressed inmate whites.
She says goodbye to her attorney.
“I love you. And thank you for all you’ve done,” she tells Hall. “I’ll see you later. This is what I want.”
“I know, Christina,” Hall replies. “I love you too.”
By 9 p.m., Riggs is in the execution chamber. Prison officials have trouble finding a vein, so she helps them. At 9:16 p.m., Riggs is asked if she has any last words. “Yes. There is no way — no words can express just how sorry I am for taking the lives of my babies. No way I can make up for or take away the pain I’ve caused everyone who knew and loved them. I hope someday maybe everyone can forgive me. I know God has and I believe he saved me 21/2 years ago, bringing me closer, to give me the chance to repent and accept him as my savior. I’ve done that. Now I can be with my babies as I always intended.”
The drugs begin flowing into Riggs’ body at 9:18. One minute later, she murmurs something, her voice so low that only a few of the witnesses can make out the words. “I love you, my babies.”
She is pronounced dead at 9:28 p.m.
Justin and Shelby
The locket that Christina's mom wears.
Christina shows the scar from where the drug burned a hole into her skin during her suicide attempt.
Wanda Jean Allen
Wanda Jean Allen (August 17, 1959 – January 11, 2001) was sentenced to death in 1988 for the murder of Gloria Jean Leathers, 29. Allen was the first black woman to be executed in the United States since 1954. She was the sixth woman to be executed since executions resumed in 1977. Her final appeals and the last three months of her life were chronicled by filmmaker Liz Garbus in the documentary The Execution of Wanda Jean (2002).
Wanda Jean Allen was born in 1959, the second of eight children. Her mother was an alcoholic; her father left home after the last child was born and the family lived in public housing and scraped by on public assistance.
At the age of 12, Allen was hit by a truck and knocked unconscious, and at 14 or 15 she was stabbed in the left temple. It was found that Allen's actual abilities were markedly impaired, and that her IQ was 69. Found particularly significant was that her left hemisphere was dysfunctional, impairing her comprehension, her ability to logically express herself, and her ability to analyze cause and effect relationships. It was also concluded that Allen was more chronically vulnerable than others to becoming disorganized by everyday stresses, and thus more vulnerable to a loss of control under stress.
By age 17, she had dropped out of high school.Dedra Pettus
In 1981, Allen was sharing an apartment with Dedra Pettus. On June 29, 1981, they got into an argument, and Allen shot and killed Dedra. In her 1981 confession, Allen stated that she accidentally shot Pettus from roughly 30 feet away while returning fire from Pettus's boyfriend. However, the forensic evidence was inconsistent with Allen's story; in particular, a police expert believed that bruises and powder burns on Pettus's body indicated that Allen had pistol-whipped her, then shot her at point-blank range. Nevertheless, prosecutors cut a deal with Allen, and she received a four-year sentence in exchange for a guilty plea to a manslaughter charge. She served two years of the sentence.Gloria Jean Leathers
Seven years after the death of Dedra Pettus, Allen was living with her girlfriend Gloria Jean Leathers. The two met in prison and had a turbulent and violent relationship. On December 2, 1988, Gloria Jean Leathers, 29, was shot in front of The Village Police Department inOklahoma City. Fifteen minutes before the shooting, the two women were involved in a dispute at a grocery store. A city officer escorted the two women to their house and stood by while Leathers collected her belongings. Leathers and her mother were on their way to file a complaint against Allen. When Leathers exited the car, Allen fired one shot, wounding Leathers in the abdomen. Leathers' mother witnessed the shooting. Two police officers and a dispatcher heard the shot fired, but no police department employee witnessed the shooting. The police recovered a .38-caliber handgun they believe was used in the shooting near the women's home. Gloria died from the injury on December 5, 1988.Trial
The state charged Allen with first-degree murder and announced that it would seek the death penalty. Evidence that Leathers had a history of violent conduct, and that she had stabbed a woman to death in Tulsa in 1979, was central to the self-defense argument at Allen's trial. Allen testified that she feared Leathers because she had boasted to her about the killing. The defense sought to corroborate this claim with testimony from Leathers' mother, whom Leathers had told about the stabbing. However, the prosecution objected, and the court prohibited the introduction of such testimony because it was considered hearsay. The prosecutor depicted Allen as a remorseless liar. The jury found her guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced her to death.
During the punishment phase the prosecutors argued that Allen should be sentenced to death because she had been previously convicted of a felony involving the use or threat of violence; that she was a continuing threat to society; and she committed the murder to avoid arrest or prosecution. The jury found that the first two aggravating circumstances existed in Allen's case. Allen's defense presented numerous mitigating circumstances including good relationship with her family, good work habit, and her fear of the victim.
In the sentencing phase the prosecution presented testimony on the circumstances of the death of Detra Pettus, and compared this previous crime to the death of Gloria Leathers.
In a 1991 affidavit, the defense lawyer stated that after the trial he learned that when Allen was 15 years old, her IQ was measured at 69, placing her "just within the upper limit of the classification of mental retardation" according to the psychologist who analyzed her and that an examining doctor had recommended a neurological assessment because she manifested symptoms of brain damage. The lawyer stated, "I did not search for any medical or psychological records or seek expert assistance for use at the trial."
A psychologist conducted a comprehensive evaluation of Allen in 1995 and found clear and convincing evidence of cognitive and sensory-motor deficits and brain dysfunction possibly linked to an adolescent head injury.Execution
Allen spent 12 years on death row. Her application for clemency was refused. This caused mass demonstrations opposing the death penalty.
While in prison, she claimed to become a born-again Christian. The Reverend Robin Meyers, who served as a spiritual adviser to Allen, is quoted as saying, "I always suspected that Wanda's renunciation of lesbianism had more to do with helping to revamp herself in the most palatable way for her clemency and appeal processes. She knew perfectly well that her being a lesbian was a big strike against her and that it's an embarrassment in the black community. She was going to play the best hand that she could play at the very end."
Allen, then 41, was executed by lethal injection by the State of Oklahoma on Thursday, January 11, 2001 at Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester. Twenty-four relatives of murder victim Gloria Leathers and manslaughter victim Detra Pettus traveled to McAlester for the execution. Many of them watched the execution from behind a tinted window. While lying on the execution gurney, Allen said, "Father, forgive them. They know not what they do." She also stuck her tongue out and smiled at her appeal lawyer, Steve Presson, who had become her friend. He says she was "dancing on the mattress, while they tried to kill her." She was pronounced dead at 9:21 p.m.
Marilyn Kay Plantz
Executed May 1, 2001 by Lethal Injection in Oklahoma
Plantz hired her teenage boyfriend Clifford Bryson and his friend William McKimble to kill her husband for about $300,000 in life insurance. Entering his home after work, he was ambushed by Bryson and McKimble and beaten with ball bats while Plantz and kids were asleep in bed. Plantz got up and instructed them to "burn him" to make it look like an accident. They drove him to deserted location, doused him and his pickup with gasoline and set it on fire. McKimble pled to Life and testified. Plantz and Bryson were tried jointly. Bryson was executed in 2000.
Life insurance provided the incentive for today’s criminal – all $300,000 of it. It was this tidy sum that drove Marilyn Kay Plantz to arrange for her husband to be killed, although in the trial she suggested that she was motivated by the fact that he was abusive.Seeds of intrigue
The truth was she was bored. She sought the kind of the excitement she felt she’d missed out on, having got pregnant at an early age. There are reports that she would dump her kids on a babysitter, then sell herself so she could score drugs. During this time she hooked up with a younger man by the name of William Bryson, who became infatuated. It was then that the brazen plan was hatched to jump her husband as he got home from work, even though her two children were asleep upstairs.
As she actually needed someone to carry out the deed the bored housewife persuaded Byson and his mate to do her dirty work. And sure enough when Mr Plantz arrived home late one night, they set upon him with his own son’s baseball bats and beat him to a pulp. As he lay there all bloodied and bruised Marilyn thought it all looked too obvious so she came up with the not-so-bright idea of setting him alight, to make it look like an accident.Dirty duo
So the boys drove the body of Mr P. to a remote spot in his own pick-up truck and set light to it with him in it. Apparently Jim Plantz was still alive as the flames took hold – the autopsy showed smoke inhalation and he apparently even tried to get out of the truck before he succumbed to the fumes.
After the murder the boys went round to another mate’s house and bragged about their deed.
His body was found the very next morning and three days later Plantz was taken into custody and the two boys just one day later. The irony is that Plantz family rallied in the early days vowing to get her a lawyer. That is until they started hearing what Plantz was being accused of. ‘…when they started finding things out about her, that’s when she died as far as I’m concerned’ said the victim’s dad and her ex-father-in-law.Grassed up
But her defence seriously started to unravel when her lover’s mate turned grass. William McKimble dished the dirt on the lovers in return for a lesser sentence. A jury took just two hours to send them down for their crimes. The lovers got death and Bryson went to meet it first. He was lethally injected on 15 June 2000, aged 29.
Plantz followed a year later, also by lethal injection aged 40. She became the second woman to be executed since Oklahoma became a state in 1907 and the second woman in America to be executed in 2001 – the first being Wanda Jean Allen.
Lois Nadean Smith
McALESTER, Okla. — A woman convicted of killing her son's former girlfriend in 1982 was executed Tuesday night by lethal injection, making her the third woman and 17th inmate put to death this year in Oklahoma.
With the execution of Lois Nadean Smith, 61, Oklahoma now leads the nation in the number of executions this year.
Lynda Lyon Block
On October 4, 1993, a passer-by expressed concern to Opelika police Sergeant Roger Motley about Lyon's son, who was in a parked car with her common law husband, George Sibley, and looked as though he wanted help. By Sibley's own account, he was explaining to Motley, who had asked for his driver's license, why he did not "need" one when he observed Motley placing his hand on his service revolver. Sibley then drew his gun. Motley took cover behind his patrol car; witnesses stated Sibley fired first. Lyon was at a payphone when she heard gunfire. Witnesses stated that she was in a crouched position when she fired; she claimed that she fired just as she stopped running toward Motley. Motley, who had given his bulletproof vest to a rookie officer, was mortally wounded in the chest.
Part of the anti-government Patriot Movement, Lyon and Sibley had renounced their citizenship and destroyed their birth certificates, driver's licenses, and Social Security cards. They refused to cooperate with their court-appointed attorneys, maintaining that they had acted in self-defense. They also maintained that Alabama did not have the authority to try them as it was not properly re-admitted into the Union after the American Civil War. As it could not be determined who fired the fatal shot, each was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death. At the time of the incident, they were on the run from Florida to escape sentencing for an assault on Lyon's ex-husband.
While on death row, Block was held at the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka, Alabama. Block, Alabama Institutional Serial #Z575, entered death row on December 21, 1994. She was executed on May 10, 2002. Block's execution occurred at the Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Alabama.
Before the execution, three friends visited Lyon in her final holding chamber for several hours. Lyon also saw a spiritual adviser. She had not requested a last meal, nor made a final statement. Though she was allowed to choose two witnesses to her death, Lyon chose her spiritual adviser, Sally Michaud, as the only person to view her death. Sally did not attend the execution, however. Two witnesses to the execution were members of the victim's family, Motley's sister Betty Anne Foshee, and his mother, Anne Motley.
Near 12:00 midnight, she entered the execution chamber, wearing a white prison outfit. Her shaved head was covered with a black hood. At 12:01 a.m., the current was turned on. 2,050 volts of electricity were applied to her body for 20 seconds, and then 250 volts for 100 seconds. At 12:10 a.m., she was pronounced dead. She was the last person to be electrocuted in Alabama and the first woman executed in the state since 1957.
Sibley filed a hand-written petition asking the Alabama Supreme Court to block his execution, claiming that Lyon had fired the shot that killed Motley. He was executed on 4 August 2005 by lethal injection.
Frances Elaine Newton (April 12, 1965 – September 14, 2005) was a woman who was executedby lethal injection in the state of Texas for the April 7, 1987 murder of her husband, Adrian, 23, her son, Alton, 7, and daughter, Farrah, 21 months.
All three victims were shot with a .25 caliber pistol which belonged to a man Newton had been seeing. Newton claimed that an illegal drug trade/drug dealer killed the three. The Houston police presented evidence that Newton's husband was a drug dealer and was in debt to his supplier. Newton maintained her innocence from her first interrogation in 1987 until her execution in 2005. However, three weeks before the slayings, Newton had purchased life insurance policies on her husband, her daughter, and herself. These were each worth $50,000. She named herself as beneficiary on her husband's and daughter's policies. Newton claimed she forged her husband's signature to prevent him from discovering that money had been set aside to pay the premiums. Newton was also found to have placed a paper bag containing the murder weapon in a relative's home shortly after the murders. Prosecutors cited these facts as the basis for her motive.
Two hours before her first scheduled execution on December 1, 2004, Texas Governor Rick Perry granted a 120-day reprieve to allow more time to test forensic evidence in the case. There were also conflicting reports as to whether a second gun was recovered from the scene;ballistics reports appeared to demonstrate that a gun recovered by law enforcement and allegedly connected to Newton after the offense was the murder weapon. A relative of Newton who was incarcerated shortly after the murders claimed a person he shared a cell with boasted of killing the family. Numerous individuals, including three members of the convicting jury, expressed concern over evidence that was not presented during the trial.
On August 24, 2005, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals turned down a motion for a stay of execution. It turned down another appeal on September 9 for writ of habeas corpus. It was her fourth application.
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted 7-0 on September 12 not to recommend that her sentence be commuted to life imprisonment, despite evidence raising doubt about her guilt and a letter from her husband's parents asking that her life be spared. The same day the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit refused an appeal of her sentence. Her new attorney, David Dow, also asked Governor Perry for a 30-day stay to prove that Newton was wrongly linked to the murder weapon. The Supreme Court of the United States declined without dissent two appeals on September 13.Execution Huntsville Unit, where Newton died
The execution was carried out as scheduled on September 14, 2005 by lethal injection. Newton struggled and thrashed, knocking out one of the nurses. Frances Newton was the third woman executed in Texas since the resumption of capital punishment in the state in 1982. The first and second were Karla Faye Tucker and Betty Lou Beets, respectively.
Like Beets before her, Newton made no final statement and did not have a last meal request. Over 30 protesters from the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement, the National Black United Front, and the New Black Panther Party had gathered outside the prison. In addition, about 75 people protested the execution outside the governor's mansion in Austin. According to the results of a Public Information Act request submitted by Texas Moratorium Network to the office of Governor Rick Perry, 12,201 people contacted the governor asking him to stop Newton's execution and 10 people contacted him in support of her execution.
During the investigation of Frances Newton, the forensic crime lab in the Houston Police Department was also experiencing intense criticism for the handling of evidence. Michael R. Bromwich, a former U.S. Justice Department official, said the Houston Police Department and city officials "failed to provide the crime lab with adequate resources to meet growing demands" for at least 15 years before the exposure of problems in its DNA division.
Aileen Carol Wuornos (29 February 1956 – 9 October 2002) was an American serial killer who killed seven men in Florida between 1989 and 1990, claiming they raped or attempted to rape her while she was working as a prostitute. She was convicted and sentenced to death for six of the murders and executed by lethal injection on October 9, 2002.
Wuornos was born as Aileen Carol Pittman in Rochester, Michigan, on 29 February 1956. Her mother, Diane Wuornos, was 15 years old when she married Aileen's father, Leo Dale Pittman on 3 June 1954. Less than two years later, and two months before Wuornos was born, Diane filed for divorce. Aileen had an older brother named Keith, who was born in February 1955. Wuornos never met her father, because he was in prison for the rape and attempted murder of an eight-year-old boy when she was born. Leo Pittman was considered to be a schizophrenic, who was convicted of sex crimes against children, was in and out of prison, and hanged himself in prison in 1969. In January 1960, when Aileen was almost 4 years old, Diane abandoned her children, leaving them with their maternal grandparents, Lauri and Britta Wuornos, who legally adopted Keith and Aileen on 18 March 1960.
At age 12, Wuornos engaged in sexual activities in school in exchange for cigarettes, drugs, and food. Aileen had also engaged in sexual activities with her own brother. Wuornos claimed that she was sexually assaulted and beaten as a child by her grandfather. Aileen's grandfather was an alcoholic. Before beating her, he would force her to strip out of her clothes. In 1970, at age 14, she became pregnant, having been raped by a friend of her grandfather. Wuornos gave birth at a home for unwed mothers, and the child was placed for adoption. A few months after her baby was born, Aileen dropped out of school as her grandmother died of liver failure; and Aileen and her brother became wards of the court. When she was 15, her grandfather threw her out of the house; and she began supporting herself as a prostitute and living in the woods near her old home.Early criminal career
On 27 May 1974, Wuornos was arrested in Jefferson County, Colorado, for driving under the influence (DUI), disorderly conduct, and firing a .22-caliber pistol from a moving vehicle. She was later charged with failure to appear (FTA).
In 1976, Wuornos hitchhiked to Florida, where she met 69-year-old yacht club president Lewis Gratz Fell. They married that same year, and the announcement of their nuptials was printed in the society pages of the local newspaper. However, Wuornos continually involved herself in confrontations at their local bar and eventually went to jail for assault. She also hit Fell with his own cane, leading him to get a restraining order against her. She returned to Michigan where, on 14 July 1976, Wuornos was arrested in Antrim County, Michigan, and charged with assault and disturbing the peace for throwing a cue ball at a bartender's head. On July 17, her brother Keith died of esophageal cancer and Wuornos received $10,000 from his life insurance. Wuornos and Fell annulled on July 21 after nine weeks of marriage.
On 20 May 1981, Wuornos was arrested in Edgewater, Florida, for the armed robbery of a convenience store. She only got $35 and two packs of cigarettes. She was sentenced to prison on 4 May 1982, and released on 30 June 1983. On 1 May 1984, Wuornos was arrested for attempting to pass forged checks at a bank in Key West. On 30 November 1985, she was named as a suspect in the theft of a revolver and ammunition in Pasco County.
On 4 January 1986, Wuornos was arrested in Miami and charged with grand theft auto, resisting arrest, and obstruction by false information for providing identification with her aunt's name. Miami police officers found a .38-caliber revolver and a box of ammunition in the stolen car. On 2 June 1986, Volusia County, Florida deputy sheriffs detained Wuornos for questioning after a male companion accused her of pulling a gun, in his car, and demanding $200. Wuornos was found to be carrying spare ammunition, and a .22 pistol was discovered under the passenger seat she had occupied.
Around this time, Wuornos met Tyria Moore, a hotel maid, at a Daytona gay bar. They moved in together, and Wuornos supported them with her prostitution earnings. On 4 July 1987, Daytona Beach police detained Wuornos and Moore at a bar for questioning regarding an incident in which they were accused of assault and battery with a beer bottle. On 12 March 1988, Wuornos accused a Daytona Beach bus driver of assault. She claimed that he pushed her off the bus following a confrontation. Moore was listed as a witness to the incident.
After seeing Wuornos on television prior to her first trial, a 44-year-old born-again-Christian woman named Arlene Pralle felt compelled to contact Aileen. She claimed Jesus told her to do so. Pralle quickly became an outspoken advocate of Wuornos, speaking with her daily and claiming her innocenceMurders
- Richard Mallory, age 51, 30 November 1989—Electronics store owner in Clearwater, Florida. Wuornos' first victim was a convicted rapist whom she claimed to have killed in self-defense. Two days later, a Volusia County, Florida, Deputy Sheriff found Mallory's abandoned vehicle. On December 13, Mallory's body was found several miles away in a wooded area. He had been shot several times, but two bullets to the left lung were found to have been the cause of death. It was on this murder that Wuornos would eventually be condemned.
- David Spears, age 43—Construction worker in Winter Garden, Florida. On 1 June 1990, his nude body was found along Highway 19 inCitrus County, Florida. He had been shot six times.
- Charles Carskaddon, age 40, 31 May 1990—Part-time rodeo worker. On 6 June 1990, his body was found in Pasco County, Florida. He had been shot nine times with a small-caliber weapon.
- Peter Siems, age 65—In June 1990, Siems left Jupiter, Florida, for New Jersey. On 4 July 1990, his car was found in Orange Springs, Florida. Moore and Wuornos were seen abandoning the car, and Wuornos' palm print was found on the interior door handle. His body was never found.
- Troy Burress, age 50—Sausage salesman from Ocala, Florida. On 31 July 1990, he was reported missing. On 4 August 1990, his body was found in a wooded area along State Road 19 in Marion County, Florida. He had been shot twice.
- Charles "Dick" Humphreys, age 56, 11 September 1990—Retired U.S. Air Force Major, former State Child Abuse Investigator, and former Chief of Police. On 12 September 1990, his body was found in Marion County, Florida. He was fully clothed and had been shot six times in the head and torso. His car was found in Suwannee County, Florida.
- Walter Jeno Antonio, age 62—Police Reservist.[page needed] On 19 November 1990,[page needed] Antonio's nearly nude body was found near a remote logging road in Dixie County, Florida. He had been shot four times. Five days later, his car was found in Brevard County, Florida.
On 4 July 1990, Wuornos and Moore abandoned Peter Siems's car after they were involved in an accident. Witnesses who had seen the women driving the victims' cars provided police with their names and descriptions, resulting in a media campaign to locate them. Police also found some of the victims' belongings in pawnshops and retrieved fingerprints matching those found in the victims' cars. Wuornos had a criminal justice record in Florida, and her fingerprints were on file.
On 9 January 1991, Wuornos was arrested on an outstanding warrant at The Last Resort, a biker bar in Volusia County. Police located Moore the next day in Scranton, Pennsylvania. She agreed to elicit a confession from Wuornos in exchange for prosecutorial immunity. Moore returned with police to Florida, where she was put up in a motel. Under police guidance, Moore made numerous telephone calls to Wuornos, pleading for help in clearing her name. Three days later, on 16 January 1991, Wuornos confessed to the murders. She claimed the men had tried to rape her and she killed them in self-defense.
On 14 January 1992, Wuornos went to trial for the murder of Richard Mallory. Prior bad acts are normally inadmissible in criminal trials; but, under Florida's Williams Rule, the prosecution was allowed to introduce evidence related to her other crimes to show a pattern of illegal activity. On 27 January 1992, Wuornos was convicted of Richard Mallory's murder with help from Moore's testimony. At her sentencing, psychiatrists for the defense testified that Wuornos was mentally unstable and had been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. Four days later, she was sentenced to death.
On 31 March 1992, Wuornos pleaded no contest to the murders of Dick Humphreys, Troy Burress, and David Spears, saying she wanted to "get right with God". In her statement to the court, she stated, "I wanted to confess to you that Richard Mallory did violently rape me as I've told you; but these others did not. [They] only began to start to." On 15 May 1992, Wuornos was given three more death sentences.
In June 1992, Wuornos pleaded guilty to the murder of Charles Carskaddon; in November 1992, she received her fifth death sentence. The defense made efforts during the trial to introduce evidence that Mallory had been tried for intent to commit rape in Maryland and that he had been committed to a maximum security correctional facility in Maryland that provided remediation to sexual offenders. Records obtained from that institution reflected that, from 1958 to 1962, Mallory was committed for treatment and observation resulting from a criminal charge of assault with intent to rape and received an over-all eight years of treatment from the facility. In 1961, "it was observed of Mr. Mallory that he possessed strong sociopathic trends". The judge refused to allow this to be admitted in court as evidence and denied Wuornos' request for a retrial.
In February 1993, Wuornos pleaded guilty to the murder of Walter Gino Antonio and was sentenced to death again. No charges were brought against her for the murder of Peter Siems, as his body was never found. In all, she received six death sentences.
Wuornos told several inconsistent stories about the killings. She claimed initially that all seven men had raped her while she was working as a prostitute but later recanted the claim of self-defense. During an interview with filmmaker Nick Broomfield, when she thought the cameras were off, she told him that it was, in fact, self-defense, but she could not stand being on death row—where she had been for 12 years at that point—and wanted to die.Execution
Wuornos' appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was denied in 1996. In 2001, she announced that she would not issue any further appeals against her death sentence. She petitioned the Florida Supreme Court for the right to fire her legal counsel and stop all appeals, saying, "I killed those men, robbed them as cold as ice. And I'd do it again, too. There's no chance in keeping me alive or anything, because I'd kill again. I have hate crawling through my system...I am so sick of hearing this 'she's crazy' stuff. I've been evaluated so many times. I'm competent, sane, and I'm trying to tell the truth. I'm one who seriously hates human life and would kill again." A defense attorney argued that she was in no state for them to honor such a request.
Florida Governor Jeb Bush instructed three psychiatrists to give Wuornos a 15-minute interview. The test for competency requires the psychiatrist(s) to be convinced that the condemned person understands that she will die and for which crime(s) she is being executed. All three judged her mentally fit to be executed.
Wuornos later started accusing the prison matrons of abusing her. She accused them of tainting her food, spitting on it, serving her potatoes cooked in dirt, and her food arriving with urine. She also claimed overhearing conversations about "trying to get me so pushed over the brink by them I'd wind up committing suicide before the [execution]" and "wishing to rape me before execution". She also complained of strip searches, being handcuffed so tightly that her wrists bruised any time she left her cell, door kicking, frequent window checks by matrons, low water pressure, mildew on her mattress and "cat calling ... in distaste and a pure hatred towards me". Wuornos threatened to boycott showers and food trays when specific officers were on duty. "In the meantime, my stomach's growling away and I'm taking showers through the sink of my cell."
Her attorney stated that "Ms. Wuornos really just wants to have proper treatment, humane treatment until the day she's executed", and "If the allegations don't have any truth to them, she's clearly delusional. She believes what she's written".
During the final stages of the appeal process she gave a series of interviews to Broomfield. In her final interview shortly before her execution she claimed that her mind was being controlled by "sonic pressure" to make her appear crazy and described her impending death as being taken away by angels on a space ship. Wuornos said to Broomfield, "You sabotaged my ass, society, and the cops, and the system. A raped woman got executed, and was used for books and movies and shit." Her final words in the on-camera interview were "Thanks a lot, society, for railroading my ass." Broomfield later met Dawn Botkins, a childhood friend of Wuornos', who told him, "She's sorry, Nick. She didn't give you the finger. She gave the media the finger, and then the attorneys the finger. And she knew if she said much more, it could make a difference on her execution tomorrow, so she just decided not to. "
Wuornos was brought into the death chamber on October 9, 2002. She had declined a last meal and instead was given a cup of coffee. Her last words before the execution was "Yes, I would just like to say I'm sailing with the rock, and I'll be back, like Independence Day with Jesus. June 6, like the movie. Big mother ship and all, I'll be back, I'll be back." At 9:47 A.M. EDT, Aileen Wuornos died. She was the tenth woman in the United States to be executed since the Supreme Court lifted the ban on capital punishment in 1976, and the second woman ever executed in Florida.After death
After her execution, Wuornos' body was cremated. Her ashes were taken by Dawn Botkins to her native Michigan and spread beneath a tree. She requested that Natalie Merchant's song "Carnival" be played at her funeral. Natalie Merchant commented on this when asked why her song was played during the credits of the documentary Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer:
When director Nick Broomfield sent a working edit of the film, I was so disturbed by the subject matter that I couldn't even watch it. Aileen Wuornos led a tortured, torturing life that is beyond my worst nightmares. It wasn't until I was told that Aileen spent many hours listening to my album Tigerlily while on death row and requested "Carnival" be played at her funeral that I gave permission for the use of the song. It's very odd to think of the places my music can go once it leaves my hands. If it gave her some solace, I have to be grateful.
Broomfield later stated:
I think this anger developed inside her. And she was working as a prostitute. I think she had a lot of awful encounters on the roads. And I think this anger just spilled out from inside her. And finally exploded. Into incredible violence. That was her way of surviving. I think Aileen really believed that she had killed in self-defense. I think someone who's deeply psychotic can't really tell the difference between something that is life threatening and something that is a minor disagreement, that you could say something that she didn't agree with. She would get into a screaming black temper about it. And I think that's what had caused these things to happen. And at the same time, when she wasn't in those extreme moods, there was an incredible humanity to her.
Female Executions 2000 to Date.
2011 case details.
On Saturday the 28th of January 46 year old Zahra Bahrami was hanged in Tehran’s Evin prison having been convicted of "selling and possessing drugs", the Tehran prosecutor's office said in a statement, adding that she had been arrested for "security crimes" in December 2009 after participating in anti-government protests while visiting relatives in Tehran.
On the 14th of March Adiva Mirza Soleyman Kalimia and her husband Varjan Petrosian were reportedly hanged in Tehran’s Evin prison although it is not clear on what charges. A further two unidentified men and one women were executed with them.
Filipinos, Sally Ordinario-Villanueva, and Elizabeth Batain were put to death by lethal injection on the 29th of March. Elizabeth Batain, 38, was executed at a prison in the southern city of Shenzhen. Sally Ordinario-Villanueva, 32, was executed with Ramon Credo in the port city of Xiamen. They were the first Filipinos to be executed in China for drug trafficking, Philippine officials said.
26 year old Mao Ran who had been convicted of organising large-scale drug trafficking at China’s Xiamen International Airport was executed inXiamen on Wednesday the 13th of April, probably by lethal injection.
On the 13th of May two young women were hanged in Sudan for stoning a child to death in the Al-Azhari area of Khartoum in revenge over a dispute with the child's mother, according to a BBC report.
They were sentenced to death by the Hay al-Nasr criminal court under article 130 of the penal code.
Indonesian Ruyati Binti Sapubi, 54, was beheaded in Mecca on Saturday the 18th of June for murdering a Saudi woman, Khairiya bint HamidMijlid, by striking her repeatedly on the head with a meat cleaver and stabbing her in the neck. It is thought that she was Mijlid’s maid.
Begom N. who had been convicted of trafficking 555 grams of heroin was hanged within prison in the city of Rafsanjan in Iran along with fellow trafficker Khodadad M. on Thursday July20th.
2010 case details (6 executions).
Jihan Mohammed Ali was hanged in Egypt’s Giza prison on the 10th of March for the murder of her husband in 2004. Her co defendant, AtefRohyum Abd El Al Rohyum was hanged in Isti’naf prison on the same day. Jihan had stated she acted alone in killing her husband and that Atefhad done no more than help her move the body. She claimed that she had acted in self defence as her husband was beating her.
Kurdish born Shirin Alamhouli (age 28) was hanged with four men in Tehran’s Evin prison on Sunday the 9th of May for planting a bomb under a car in a Tehran parking lot belonging to the elite Revolutionary Guards. All five were members of the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK).
Iran hanged an unnamed woman and three men on Sunday the 10th of October 2010 in a prison in the north western city of Zanjan after they were found guilty of drug trafficking, the Fars news agency reported.
Shahla Jahed (age 40) was hanged in Tehran’s Evin prison at 5.00 am on Wednesday the 1st of December for the 2002 murder of her football star boyfriend’s wife, Laleh Saharkhizan, in 2002. Members of Laleh Saharkhizan’s family were present at the execution and it is reported that her son removed the bench from under Shahla Jahed’s feet leaving her suspended. Her murder conviction had been overturned in 2008 but was re-instated the following year. Shahla maintained her innocence throughout. The case gripped Iran as Nasser Mohammed Khani was a famous football player who had taken Shahla as a temporary wife.
On Sunday the 19th of December Iran hanged Mahin Qadiri, a female serial killer, in the central city of Qazvin. She had been convicted of murdering five middle-aged women between February 2008 and May 2009 and stealing from them for which she received 74 lashes. Reportedly she rendered them unconscious before strangling them.
2009 case details (19 executions).
33 year old Masoumeh Ghale Jahi was hanged in the Iranian prison of Rafsanjan on January the 29th 2009, for the murder of her husband nine years previously. She claimed that the killing was accidental.
A'isha Al-Hamzi, a 40 year old Saudi born mother of seven, was executed by machine gun in the Central Prison in Sana’a in the Yemen on Sunday the 19th of April for the murder of her husband in 2002. Her children had refused to pardon her, which they were entitled to do under Yemeni law.
Laila Bin Hamdan al-Shammari was executed by shooting in the north western Saudi Arabian province of Hail on the 20th of April for the shooting murder of her husband Ghanim al-Sebei. She later burned his body with the help of her daughter Fawziya, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison and 2,000 lashes for her part in the crime.
On the 2nd of May Delara Darabi, aged 23, was hanged in Iran at Rasht Central Prison despite a two-month stay of execution in the case issued on the 19th of April 2009, by the head of the Judiciary. She had been convicted of the murder of her father's cousin in September 2003, at the age of 17, although it is thought that her boyfriend actually committed the crime and that she initially confessed to save him.
At dawn on Wednesday 6th of May, Zeynab Nazarzadeh and three men were hanged in Tehran’s Evin Prison. 28 year old Zeynab was executed for the murder of her husband.
On Wednesday 13th of May a 30 year old woman named Azita was hanged with her male co-defendant Mohammad, for smuggling three kilograms of crack cocaine in a prison in Qazvin in Iran. One week later on the 20th of May a 29 year old woman, identified only as Afsaneh, and three men were hanged in the southern Iranian city of Shiraz according to the Etemaad newspaper. She had been convicted of murdering and then burning the body of her husband, with the help of her lover, in July 2006.
A woman was amongst eight prisoners executed for drug trafficking in China on the 25th of June. Yan Chaomin, aged 59, had previous convictions for drug offences and was executed by shooting in Sichuan province for having been caught with 200g of heroin on her person.
It is claimed that 33 year old mother of three, Ri Hyon Ok, was publicly executed in North Korea on the 16th of June for distributing copies of the bible and of spying for South Korea and the United States. There is no means of verifying this but it is probably true.
An unnamed woman was hanged in Iran’s Qazvin prison on the 15th of July for killing her father in law four years ago. She claimed the killing, which happened during a family dispute was unintentional but the victim’s family did not accept this and refused to pardon her.
On Wednesday the 29th July a woman identified only as Jamileh, aged 25 and one man were hanged in the prison of Shiraz (southern Iran) early, reported the Iranian daily Etemad. She had been convicted of murdering her husband in 2004.
44 year old beauty parlour owner Du Yimin was executed, probably by lethal injection, on Wednesday the 6th of August in Lishui City, Zhejiang province in China for a massive fraud which netted her over 700 million yuan ($102.5 million) which according to China's highest court had "seriously damaged the country's financial regulatory order and social stability," the official Xinhua News Agency said.
On the 6th of October, a man, Abdollah J. and two women, Khadijeh J. and Fouzieh J. convicted of drug trafficking were hanged in a prison in the south-western Iranian city of Ahvaz.
Iran hanged five convicted murderers in the capital's Evin prison on 20/10/2009, including 27 year old Soheila Ghadiri who had been convicted of killing and chopping up her five-day-old son in 2006.
Soheila ran away from home at 14 and had been arrested in the past for conducting illegal relationships it was reported. The trial court was told that she had been suffering from depression following the birth.
Saudi Arabia beheaded Halima Abdelkader, a Sri Lankan national, on the 4th of November for her part in the robbery/murder of her employer,Marriam Hussein in Jeddah. She had let two other assailants into the home.
On Monday 11th November Beygum P. was hanged in a prison in the central Iranian city of Esfahan for drug trafficking together with two men,Vahid Sh., Rasoul T.
It was reported on the 14th of December that Zhao Qingmei, a school teacher, has been executed in China’s Guizhou province for forcing 22 pupils, some as young as six, and an older girl into prostitution between March and June 2006. Zhao was also convicted of aiding her husband in the rape of a child.
2008 case details. (up to 30 executions)
27 year old mother of two, Raheleh Zamani was hanged in Tehran’s Evin prison on Wednesday the 2nd of January. She had killed her husband Mohammad in 2005 by beating his head with an iron bar after discovering he was having an affair with another woman. She then chopped up the body and hid the pieces in several containers. Raheleh had been due to be hanged on December the 19th 2007 along with Zahra N (see below), but was given a last-minute stay of execution to allow her time to reach a “blood money” deal with her in-laws.
Saudi Arabia executed an Indonesian housemaid, Yanti Sukardi, on Saturday the 12th of January, in the south-western province of Asir. She had been found guilty of using a pillow to suffocate her employer, Aisha Al Makhaled and stealing her jewelry. It is probable that she was shot by a single executioner from behind, instead of beheaded.
In Mecca on Wednesday the 16th of January Saudi Arabia beheaded Nashat Haji and his 27 year old wife Iman Ghazawi, who had been convicted of torturing to death Khosoun, a nine-year-old girl, by burning her with a red-hot spoon and beating her with a metal pipe. Haji decided to "get rid of" his daughter after he became doubtful that he was her biological father from a previous marriage, however DNA tests showed a 99.9% probability that the child was in fact his.
Saudi’s third female beheading of 2008 took place in Mecca on the 29th of January when Nigerian born Tawa Lawal Ibrahim was executed for drug trafficking. On the 16th of February it was reported that North Korea executed eight women by shooting for taking part in an illegal fishing expedition.
China executed Dongmei Lee by shooting on the 4th of March at Chang Sha for an unspecified crime. It has been reported that the following dayNorth Korea executed 13 women by shooting for travelling into China in search of food.
In the early hours of Saturday 20th of July Indonesia executed a 60 year old woman named Sumiarsih together with her 44 year old son, Sugengfor the murders of a family of five in 1988. The execution was carried out by police firing squad in East Java.
On the 27th of August Iran hanged 34 year old Shabnam Setayesh, in Tehran’s Evin prison. She had stabbed her husband to death after she found out that he wanted to divorce her and marry another woman.
It is reported that five unnamed women were shot in North Korea on the 7th of October after a public trial in the Public Stadium at Hoiryeong inNorth Hamkyung Province. They had been convicted of prostitution and/or assisting the border-crossing of defectors.
On the 27th of October 13 year old Aisho Ibrahim Dhuhulow was publicly stoned to death at Kismayo in Somalia in one of the city's main squares watched by thousands of people. This was a quasi-judicial execution carried out by Islamist insurgents who had captured the city from government forces in August. She was reportedly buried up to her neck in the ground before a group of men stoned her. Her age was given as 23, not 13 and her crime as adultery. It has emerged since that she was actually a rape victim. This horrific execution of a child beggars belief!
On Wednesday 26th November Fatemeh Haqiqat-Pajuh was hanged together with nine men in Tehran’s Evin Prison for the murder of her temporary husband in 2001. She told police during interrogation that her motive was revenge after he raped her daughter from a previous marriage.
Eight men and one woman were hanged in Tehran’s Evin Prison, all for murder, on Tuesday 23rd December. The woman, said to be in her 30’s and named Tayyabeh, was convicted of drugging and the burying alive her 7 year old step daughter. She had confessed to this but later recanted her confession, claiming it was extracted under duress.
2007 case details. (7 executions)
Only two countries executed women in 2007. They were Iran, where Zahra Nazari was hanged on the 7th of May for an unspecified crime, probably murder. On Saturday the 14th of July a 29 year old woman, who’s name was only given as Houriyeh was publicly hanged in north-western Iran using the jib of a lorry crane, for the murder of her husband. Executed with her were her two male accomplices, Farhad and Reza, whom she had hired to kill three of her in-laws.
On Wednesday the 17th of October 30 year old Fakhteh C. was hanged for the murder of her employer, in private within Tehran’s Evin prison. 8 men were also hanged there on that day.
On Wednesday the 19th of December Zahra N. was hanged in private within Evin prison for the murder of her husband, together with three men in unrelated cases. Other women remain under sentence of death in Iran.
Saudi Arabia publicly beheaded three women in 2007. Hala bint Marzouk Al Outaibi was executed in on Monday the 29th of January for pouring boiling water over the head of another Saudi woman and hitting her with a metal bar. Mjedan bibi Mohammed Sherif was beheaded with her co defendant Mohammed Sadiq Chirag Deen on the 9th of March in Saudi Arabia for drug smuggling. Both were Pakistani. Ethiopian nationalKhadija Bint Ibrahim Moussa was beheaded in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia on the 9th of May for stabbing to death an Egyptian man during a dispute.
2006 case details. (14 executions)
On the 18th of January, Iran hanged a young couple in private in Tehran's Evin prison. Babak, and his wife, Raheleh had been convicted of killing a mother and her 13 year old daughter during a burglary in July 2003. They took gold and jewelry and then made their getaway in the victims' car.
A member of a child trafficking gang, 49 year old Lin Yudi, was executed by shooting in the south eastern Chinese province of Fujian on the 24th of March for her part in trafficking 31 baby boys, one of whom died.
On the 3rd of May Farzaneh Sadeqi was hanged in public in the Iranian province of Lorestan for murder.
Two unnamed women, were put to death by firing squad before dawn on Friday the 19th of May in the Vietnamese city of Ho Chi Minh. They were shot with three men, having been convicted of selling 2.8 kilograms (6 pounds) of heroin.
On Sunday the 21st of May, a woman only identified by the initials Mahboubeh M. and her male accomplice only identified as Abbass H. were hanged in Iran’s north-eastern province of Khorassan-Razavi having been convicted of murdering the woman’s husband.
Lei Hemei, a 38-year-old widow, was executed in Yunnan Province, China on the 9th of June for the murder of her young niece who she drowned in a river. The crime was committed to get back at her mother-in-law who tried to prevented her remarrying.
An unnamed woman was among 27 people hanged in Iraq on the 6th of September, probably for murder.
Nigerian born Amina Amouri Mohammad was publicly beheaded in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on the 31st of October for smuggling cocaine into the country in her stomach.
Two Pakistani women were publicly beheaded in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on Wednesday the 8th of November for drug offences. They were GulAsmat bint Gul Zaman and Shehzad Kee bint Nadir Khan who were executed with a male accomplice, Sherif Khan bin Gul Zaman.
On Wednesday the 6th of December Mohammed Mayaseed and his daughter Abagan Rafik were put to death in Mecca, Saudi Arabia after being convicted of smuggling heroin into the kingdom inside their stomachs.
On Monday the 11th of December, Bangladeshi born Jasmine Anwar Hussain, 23, and her co-defendant Mohammed Hilaluddin, 33, were executed by firing squad at Bahrain’s Jaw prison for battering to death a Bahraini housewife.
Liu Yibing and her former boss, Zhou Limin a branch manager at the China Construction Bank, were executed, probably by lethal injection, on the 14th of December in the Chinese city of Xian for a massive fraud on the bank’s customers.
2005 case details. (9 executions)
Noura bint Khalaf al-Harbi was publicly beheaded in the Saudi Arabian capital, Riyadh on Monday, the 7th of February 2005, having been convicted of setting her mother-in-law, Noura bint Salem al-Harbi, on fire as she slept, following a family dispute.
A 49 year old Indonesian woman named only as Astini was executed by firing squad early on Sunday, the 20th of March, for multiple murders and mutilating her victims in East Java more than a decade ago. The execution took place in a secret location in East Java's provincial capital ofSurabaya, 600 kilometres east of Jakarta.
On the 19th of May, Zhu Yaying was executed in China along with her lover, Wang Junping, a former prosecutor in Yangquan, Shanxi Province and Zhu Yaqi, a hitman for the murder of Wang’s former lover, Wang Xiaoli and her daughter.
24 year old Wu Xiaohui, was executed in China on Friday, the 24th of June for drug trafficking and being responsible for the deaths of two drug mules who died when they failed to pass heroin out of their bodies naturally and were poisoned.
On Sunday, the 26th of June, Chen Junyan and her male partner, Deng Pantao, were sentenced to death by the Kunming intermediate court inChina’s Yunnan province, having been charged with murder after they killed a dealer to steal his drugs. It is not known whether they were shot or given lethal injections. Their executions, along with those of eight other drug traffickers were ordered to be carried out Immediately.
On the 6th of July, Roya, 28, (female) and Mohammad, 30, were hanged inside the prison in the central Iranian city of Isfahan.
Apparently Roya had agreed to a "temporary marriage," permitted under Iranian law, to Mohammad Kouhpayeh, her employer. When the marriage contract expired, she married another man, also called Mohammad. Roya demanded that her former husband return some photos but he refused, and she and her new husband murdered him in 1999.
On Sunday, the 10th of July, Noura bint Salman al-Faidi was beheaded in the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca for stabbing Dalal bint Abdullah al-Faidi (female) to death after which she poured petrol over her body and set fire to it.
Forty year old Frances Newton was executed by lethal injection on the 14th of September in Texas. She had been convicted of killing her husband and two children to gain $100,000 in insurance benefits
On the 7th of December, 20 year old Akram N. was hanged in Shirvan in northeast Iran. She had been convicted of stabbing to death another woman identified as Maryam A. in 2001.
2004 case details. (25 executions)
On or about January 25th, an unnamed woman was given 80 lashes and then hanged in private in Iran after being convicted of luring young girls and women to work in a brothel in the northern Iranian city of Qazvin.
On the 12th of February, 45 year old Nguyen Le Hong was publicly executed by firing squad in southern Vietnam in the presence of several thousand people. She had been convicted of running a group of around 16 thieves in Tien Giang, south of Ho Chi Minh City. Members of the gang befriended people and then offered them food and drink laced with narcotics before robbing them when they became unconscious.
Five days later, Wu Yanxia, a woman farmer from central China's HubeiProvince, was executed for burglary and voluntary manslaughter – it is not known whether she was shot or given a lethal injection which is increasingly used in China.
Two female drug traffickers, 42 year old Duong Thi Lien and 52 year old Nguyen Thu Ha, were executed by firing squad at the Cau Nga execution ground in the Tu Liem district of Hanoi in Vietnam at dawn on Tuesday, the 17th of February.
March the 1st saw the hanging of 24 year old Ibtisam Hussein in Jordan’s Swaqa Penitentiary for the murder of two children. The rope broke at the first attempt and she was hanged again an hour later. The children were members of her fiancé’s family who opposed her marriage plans. She drowned them in the Jordan Valley canal, apparently as an act of revenge.
Chinese national, Yen May Woen, 37 was hanged for drug trafficking at Singapore’s Changi prison on the 19th of March alongside Jin Yugang(male) who had been convicted of murder.
Nguyen Thi Ha, 48, was executed by firing squad for the same offence in Vietnam on the 9th of April. Nguyen Thi Hien, aged 57, was executed by firing squad in Hanoi on the 12th of May, having been sentenced to death for defaulting on more than 11 billion dong (almost a million US$) in loans from her relatives and friends. Diba Zomorodian, a microbiology student, was hanged in Qazvin (western Iran) on June 29th for an unspecified offence.
On the 1st of July, an unnamed 27 year old woman was hanged in Iran’s Qazvin prison for the murder of her 78 year old father-in-law. It is thought that Monireh Ghasempour was hanged in public in Tehran on July 11th, although her crime is not known.
Sri Lankan born, Bader el-Nisaa Mibari, was publicly beheaded in Saudi Arabia on Monday, the 12th of July for killing Sara bint Mohammed al-Haqeel, a Saudi woman, while trying to rob her.
On Sunday, the 15th of August, 16 year old Atefeh (Sahaleh) Rajabi was hanged in public in the town of Neka, Northern Iran. She was put to death for “engaging in acts incompatible with chastity.” Her “crime” was that she had an unmarried boyfriend and was having sex with him. The unnamed boyfriend was sentenced to 100 lashes and afterwards released. Atefeh’s age was given as 22 in court and it has been reported that the judge took great exception to her spirited self defence and himself pushed for her execution with the Iranian Supreme Court. He is alleged to have actually put the noose around her neck before she was hoisted into the air by a lorry mounted hydraulic crane. It has been reported that she had 5 previous convictions for the same offence and had been flogged and imprisoned for these.
On Thursday, the 9th of September, it was reported by the Chinese news agency, Xinhua, that Hu Guohua and his girlfriend, Fan Shue, were executed by lethal injection after being sentenced to death for murder by the Shizuishan city court. Hu and Fan were convicted of murdering Fan's former fiancé.
Indonesia carried out the first execution of a woman for many years when 32 year old Thai national, Namsong Sirilak, and her male accomplice were put to death by police firing squad in Ha Tinh in central Indonesia for smuggling 12Kg.of heroin into the country in February 1994.
On Wednesday, the 13th of October, an unnamed middle aged woman and five unnamed men were shot by firing squad in Vietnam, having been convicted of carrying 16.8 kilograms of heroin and 87 kilograms of opium from Laos into Vietnam.
Thirty two year old Ma Xiuqin was put to death in China for having more than 13 kilograms of heroin in her possession when she was arrested in July 2003. She had been sentenced to death by a Beijing court in January of this year. Also in China, Chen Xiaomei was put to death on the 27th of October after conviction for lacing food served at a funeral party with poison which resulted in the deaths of 10 guests.
Vietnam carried out two female executions on consecutive days in November. Thirty one year old Tran Thi My Ha was shot by a firing squad on the 16th in central Quang Nam province. She had been convicted of circulating 1.45 billion counterfeit dong (equivalent to US$92,350). The following day, 37 year old Nguyen Thi Mai and her two male associates, Giang A Chong and Dinh Dinh Lam, were shot in northern Bac Giangprovince of Vietnam after being convicted of trafficking nearly 3 kilograms (6.6 pounds) of heroin.
Wu Yuancui, together with four men, Luo Jun, Zhang Shou, Zheng An and Hu Gang, were executed in southern Chinese city of Shenzhen on Friday, the 25th of November for the murder of 5 people during a robbery at the home of a former Hong Kong TV executive in May 2004. It is not known whether the five were shot or executed by lethal injection.
On Thursday, the 9th of December, China executed 38 year old Yu Mingfen together with her 24 year old male accomplice, Ren Shunbo, who had abducted 11 boys, between 2 and 3 years old, from several villages in their home county of Huize between April 2001 and November 2003 and sold them to Ning Dewan, who was executed with them. Seven of the children were rescued by police.
On the 23rd of December, Hoang Thi Dan (age 46) and Tran Thi Bach Diep (age 42) were executed by firing squad in Hai Phong in Vietnambeside murderer Hoang Trung Kien.
2003 case details. (4 executions)
Only four women were reported to have been executed in this year. They were :- Yuan Xiuzhen, a 46-year-old woman, who together with three men, Hu Aizhong, Yang Pinwu and Chen Shibin, were all put to death in China on the 20th of May. Yuan Xiuzhen had earlier been sentenced to imprisonment on embezzlement and fraud charges but was later released on bail. While on bail, she murdered an elderly man in his 80’s who had lent her money. She hit him with a bottle and then suffocated him with a towel. It is not known whether Yuan was executed by shooting or lethal injection.
Zinat al-Sadat, a 34 year old Iranian nurse, was hanged in a Tehran prison on Wednesday, the 8th of October for strangling a 70 year old man and his 11 year old grandson in 1999.
Bai Dezhen in her early 40’s, who had robbed and strangled a 78 year old grandmother for drug money in Beijing, was executed (by shooting or lethal injection) on Friday, the 21st of November, having been convicted by the No. 1 Intermediate People's Court.
On Wednesday, the 3rd of December, Qazma Al-Qahtani, a Saudi national, was executed in Abha province (Asir) , Saudi Arabia for the murder by suffocation of her husband. Initially, he was asleep and when he woke and struggled with her, she stabbed him in the arm. Her motive was not disclosed. It is probable that she was shot by a single executioner from behind, instead of beheaded.
2002 case details. (10 executions)
Lynda Lyon Block became the first reported woman to be executed in 2002 when she was put to death in Alabama's electric chair on the 10th of May 2002 for the murder of a policeman. Two days later on Sunday, the 12th of May, Zainah bint Saeed bin Mohammed al-Qahtani was publicly beheaded in Saudi Arabia for murdering her father by crushing his head with a stone while he slept. On the same day, 34 year old IbtisamAhmad went to the gallows in Jordan's Swaqa prison with her boyfriend, Ibrahim Othman, aged 30, for stabbing and suffocating Ahmad's husband who had rejected her divorce request.
On the 15th of August, 20 year old Liu Dongmeng, who had killed and dismembered her lover's wife, was executed by a single shot to the back of her head in the Chinese province of Guangzhou.
On the 8th of October 2002, a woman identified only as Nasrin C was hanged in the city of Tabriz in Iran for the murder of her sister-in-law. The execution was carried out in private at dawn inside the prison. The following day, 46 year old Aileen Wournoss was executed by lethal injection inFlorida for the murder of store owner Richard Mallory in 1989. She confessed to five other killings later and had volunteered for execution.
A further female hanging took place in Iran on the 16th of October when an unnamed woman was executed alongside four unidentified men, all for murder, in Tehran's Ghasr prison.
On Monday, the 21st of October, Saudi Arabia publicly beheaded Noura Hamad with her male accomplice, Al-Tarqi bin Atallah al-Salbi, for murder and theft of their victim's car. No other details of Noura were reported.
On Sunday, the 29th of December, Zahra Baghshirin and Farahnaz Yuly were hanged in a prison in Gachsaran in south western Iran. They had been convicted of helping a friend get rid of her husband by stabbing him in the back and beating him with batons.
2001 case details. (25 executions)
2001 saw a record number of verifiable female executions with at least 25 carried out in nine countries. The first was that of Wanda Jean Allen, by lethal injection, on the 11th of January in Oklahoma for the murder of her lesbian lover.
On the same day, China executed a married couple by shooting for defrauding the Chinese Academy of Sciences of about £5,600. Liu Yixiaused the money to pay off the debts of her unemployed husband, Liu Shaoyang, while the rest was "squandered away" by them. Liu was an accountant for the academy's technological development fund so was able to forge cheques and make out false cash transfers. Major fraud and embezzlement are punishable by death in China.
Badriyah Hussein al-Inizi and her mother, Hameedah Saad Qassem, were publicly beheaded on the 15th of January 2001 in Saudi Arabia.Badriyah was convicted of murdering her father, Hussein al-Inizi, at the instigation of her mother. Badriyah gave her father sleeping tablets, then shot him and with the help of her mother, burned the body in a remote area in the desert. They were executed in the eastern province of Hafr el-Baten.
On the 16th of February, Singapore hanged 52 year old Julaiha Maniam, along with two younger men who had helped her to kill her husband, a retired police officer, so that she could then become the sole owner of their $1.15 million terrace house.
In Afghanistan, two unnamed women were publicly hanged for prostitution. These were the first executions for this offence under the Taliban.
On the 19th of March in Iran's capital, Tehran, a young woman and four men were publicly hanged for drug trafficking. Fariba Tajiani Emamqoli'slast words were translated as, "May God forgive me" before she and her fellow prisoners were blindfolded and noosed. They were lifted, kicking and struggling into the air by lorry mounted cranes in front of about 200 witnesses who chanted "Allah akbar" - God is great and "Death to the traffickers, death to the traffickers." (see also Iran below)
Mariette Bosch, aged 50, became the ninth woman to be executed in 2001 when she was hanged at Gaborone Central prison in Botswana, southern Africa, on Saturday, the 31st of March for the murder of her lover's wife, Maria Wolmarans, on the 25th of June 1996. Her appeal, heard by a panel of five Commonwealth judges, was turned down on the 29th of January and despite appeals from human rights groups in South Africa, the Botswanan president refused to reprieve her. Click here for full article.
An unnamed Chinese woman was executed by shooting on April the 11th for killing her husband.
Marilyn Kay Plantz, 40, was executed in Oklahoma by lethal injection on the 1st of May 2001 for organising the murder of her husband. She is the seventh woman to be put to death in America since the resumption of executions in 1977.
Kuwait hanged 24 year old Qadeer Kaleeja, an Indian maid, for strangling her elderly employer and stealing her jewellery on the 17th of June. This was the first female execution there since 1988.
Two unnamed women were shot in China on the 21st of June for unspecified crimes. It is thought that an unnamed woman was hanged in Iraq for drug trafficking in June but this is not confirmed.
Thirty five year old Parvin Mirzaei was hanged in Kouhdasht in south western Iran on the 3rd of July for the murder of a 65 year old woman 4 years ago because she was afraid the older woman had learned of her decision to run away from home.
On the 11th of July, Iran executed 32 year old Maryam Ayoubi by stoning for the murder of her husband. Her lover was hanged for his part in the murder. China shot Yao Wenhua and her boyfriend, Chen Zongshan, on the 27th of July in Beijing after they murdered Yao's husband.
China executed two women and two men for trafficking in children on the 24th of August. The names of the women were not reported. It is likely that they were shot.
On the 12th of September, Iran executed 37 year old Jamileh Assadpour, who had strangled to death an old woman before robbing her house. She was hanged alongside three unnamed men in Tehran's Qasr Prison. Saeedeh Qassempour Malayeri was hanged in the same prison 6 days later for murdering her husband. Her lover, Amir-Hossein Fadaie, was also found guilty of same three years ago and sentenced to death by aTehran court. He however won a last-minute reprieve.
Mona Fandy, her husband and their assistant, were hanged in Malaysia on the 2nd of November for a witchcraft murder of a state assemblyman and chopping him into pieces during a black magic ritual in 1993. Click here for full details.
On the 5th of November, 21 year old Zhu Hongjuan was shot in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou for smuggling heroin. It is probable that more women have been executed in China under the "Strike Hard" campaign which saw some 1,730 executions from early April to the end of 2001.
Oklahoma carried out its third female execution of 2001 on the 5th of December when Lois Nadean Smith was given a lethal injection for the July 4th, 1982 murder of 21 year old Cindy Baillee, whom she suspected of plotting to murder her son, Greg. This emptied the female death row in that state at the time.
Amidst considerable international outcry, Nguyen Thi Hiep, who had dual Canadian/Vietnamese nationality, was shot by police firing squad onthe 25th of April 2000, in Hanoi, after being found guilty of trafficking in heroin in 1996.
Fatima Yossef al-Din Sayed was put before a firing squad in Doha Prison (Qatar) on the 14th of June 2000, along with her two male accomplices for the murder of her husband.
Warani Samiran Awdi (Indonesian) was beheaded for murder in Saudi Arabia on the 19th of June 2000.
Pakistani national, Mokhtiyara Khadem Hussein was executed for drug offences in Saudi Arabia on the 18th of July 2000.
Egypt hanged Saleh Mansour Hashem on the 10th of September 2000 for murder. A British style noose and measured drop are used and executions are carried out in private.
Most female executions are for murder or drug trafficking, although some women have been put to death for prostitution and brothel keeping and a few for adultery and other sexual offences in Islamic countries and for economic offences and child trafficking in China.
Maj. Kula Samba was shot for treason in Sierra Leone on the 20th of October 1998, the only reported execution for this offence.
Virginie Mukankusi, a school inspector in Kigali, was executed by firing squad with three men outside Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, for genocide on the 24th of April 1998.
America, Botswana, China, the Congo, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea and theUnited Arab Emirates have all carried out death sentences for murder in the last few years.
China, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam have executed women for drug offences and it is thought that they all have women on death row at this time. The Philippines also has the death penalty for drug trafficking. There were 18 women on death row in the Philippines for drug trafficking and murder at the end of 2000, but all later had their sentences commuted. In October 1999, President Joseph Estrada reprieved Josefina Esparas who was due to be executed by lethal injection for drug smuggling. Indonesia resumed executions in 2004 and has several women on death row convicted of murder and drug offences. India too, has a small number of condemned women in its prisons who face death by hanging, at present, if their executions proceed.
At least three women have been stoned to death for incest and adultery, one in Afghanistan and two in Iran. Iran also executed a 35 year old woman by stoning on the 25th of May 2001 for acting in "obscene sex films'' and stoned a 35 year old woman for murdering her husband and adultery.
It is highly probable that the real figure for stoning executions is much greater as this form of death sentence may be handed down and carried out locally in remote rural areas and thus not always reported. Stonings are usually carried out in public and by the public, although the latest stoning in Iran was carried out inside Tehran’s Evin prison by officials. The poor woman was wrapped in a white shroud and then buried up to her armpits in the prison yard to receive her punishment.
In Iran Article 119 of the Law of Hodoud and Qesas states, "In the punishment of stoning to death, the stones should not be too large so that the person dies on being hit by one or two of them nor should they be so small either that they could not be defined as stones." Women are buried in the ground up to their armpits as it is considered unacceptable for stones to hit their breasts.
Women and the death penalty.
Women account for less than 1% of all executions carried out worldwide in recent years and there is a marked reluctance to execute them in most countries.
Only China, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and Vietnam regularly execute women without any apparent sex bias. The penal codes of most countries prohibit the execution of pregnant women, who are either reprieved at once or, in theory, liable to be executed after they have given birth. In practice, I can find no case where this has happened and all such death sentences have been commuted.
Women tend not to commit the more heinous murders in the main and are more likely to be convicted of domestic murders, which are often perceived as less serious.
My own research shows the vast majority of respondents of both sexes do not feel that women should be treated more leniently than men.