The United States’ use of capital punishment is a practice oft-debated in many disciplines, but the gender imbalance of the death penalty in favor of women makes feminists one group hesitant to discuss the practice. Although females account for one in ten murder arrests, they are only one percent of the criminals actually executed. This paper examines the implications of capital punishment for women, and attempts to explain why women are executed at a disproportionately low rate. Trends that emerge include institutional structures, such as aggravating or mitigating factors, which are constructed in a manner that dictates the severest punishments for male crimes. Additionally, social ideologies and stereotypes are often reinforced during trials and sentencing, when judges and juries tell us directly and implicitly that women are simply too good, fair, and delicate to commit such heinous crimes. All of these elements contribute to the low rates of capital sentences and executions for female criminals. This paper includes analysis of feminist thought on capital punishment and the state, namely the works of Elizabeth Rapaport, Renee Heberle, Wendy Brown, and Wendy Williams. Finally, these theories are applied to the case of Owens v. Guida, which illustrates how far a woman must reach outside of societal norms to be sentenced to death and executed.
"Gender and Capital Punishment: The Case of Gaile Owens,"
Vol. 8, Article 4.
Available at: https://uknowledge.uky.edu/kaleidoscope/vol8/iss1/4