"I am comparing the death penalty system to the levees in New Orleans. They told us they would work, but they didn't."

Texas Woman Faces Execution Despite Questions Regarding Her Guilt

Update: Frances Newton was executed in Texas on September 14, 2005.  As Texas prepares to execute Frances Newton on September 14, her attorneys have raised questions in a clemency petition about her guilt based on new evidence, including conflicting accounts of whether investigators recovered a second gun at the crime scene. Newton, who would be the first black woman executed in the state since the Civil War, was sentenced to death for the 1987 killings of her husband and her two children.


Georgia Board To Pardon Woman 60 Years After Her Execution

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles has announced that it will issue a formal pardon this month for Lena Baker (pictured), the only woman executed in the state during the 20th century. The document, signed by all five of the current board members, will note that the parole board's 1945 decision to deny Baker clemency and allow her execution was "a grievous error, as this case called out for mercy." Baker, an African American, was executed for the murder of Ernest Knight, a white man who hired her . Baker was tried, convicted, and sentenced to die in one day by an all-white, all-male jury. Baker claimed she shot Knight in self-defense after he locked her in his gristmill and threatened her with a metal pipe. The pardon notes that Baker "could have been charged with voluntary manslaughter, rather than murder, for the death of E.B. Knight." The average sentence for voluntary manslaughter is 15 years in prison. Baker's picture and her last words are currently displayed near the retired electric chair at a museum at Georgia State Prison in Reidsville.

BOOKS: Clemency

  • A new book by Professor Austin Sarat focuses on clemency's role in the U.S. criminal justice system: "Mercy on Trial: What It Means to Stop an Execution." According to U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy, "This thoughtful book should be read by every citizen who cares about the issue, and by every governor and president entrusted with the power to punish or pardon." In "Mercy on Trial," Sarat reviews the complexities of clemency and examines issues such as rehabilitation. (Princeton University Press, 2005).

Mentally Ill Woman Dies After 20 Years on Nevada's Death Row

Priscilla Joyce Ford, who suffered from a variety of mental illnesses and who was the lone woman on Nevada's death row for more than twenty years, died of apparent complications from emphysema on January 29, 2005. A prison spokesman said, "She had been quiet for so long. No one ever had any problems with her (in prison). I don't remember hearing about her violating any rules." Ford was sentenced to death row after she was convicted of killing 6 people and injuring 23 others by driving her car down a crowded Reno sidewalk on Thanksgiving Day 1980.

Women News and Developments - Previous Years


Empathy for a Killer

Empathy for a Killer NEW YORK TIMES

July 5, 2001

Empathy for a Killer


What if a madman had invaded Andrea Yates's home in suburban Houston and drowned her 5 children?

It would have been the biggest story in America, with the coverage ranging from the sensational to the hysterical. Every angle would be pursued. Except one. There would be no serious attempt to understand the mental state of the killer -- to determine, for example, if there were mitigating factors at work. Few would care if he suffered from depression or some

From Maternal Instincts to Killer Impulses: Hallucinations, Delusions, Despair May Torment Mentally Ill Mothers Who Murder

From maternal instincts to killer impulses DALLAS MORNING NEWS Opinon: Sunday Reader
February 17, 2001

From maternal instincts to killer impulses:
Hallucinations, delusions, despair may torment mentally ill mothers who murder

The Dallas Morning News

A good mother swaddles her child in a sturdy weave of love and care. But mothers with severe mental illness might offer only a threadbare cover.

Frayed by psychosis or a profound depression, the fabric of these mothers'