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women and death row

Casey Anthony could become the fourth woman in the state of Florida currently sentenced to perish under the malevolent and inhumane specter of the death penalty.

I wrote this post, originally titled “women and the death penalty,” in February, of this year.  At the time, one woman was on Florida’s death row: Tiffany Cole.  Now, two more Floridians were added: Emilia Carr, and Margaret Allen.

Just recently I read an article about Teresa Lewis, who was killed by lethal injection in Virginia last year, September 23, 2010 and realized I needed to add her to this sad list.

Of course, I remember the story of Teresa Lewis now.  You may remember it, too.  It was such a maddening, cruel and utterly sad situation, and it gives me goosebumps to think of this mentally handicapped woman being dragged to her death.

Teresa Lewis was convicted of Capital Murder for hiring hit-men to kill her husband and step-son.  She allegedly wanted the husband’s insurance money.  I say “allegedly” because one of the hit-men admitted that she was not the mastermind at all, the hit-man wanted a share of the insurance money.

Teresa Lewis - (AP Photo/newsPRos, File)

You see, Teresa Lewis, with an IQ of only 72, which places her near the mark of mental retardation, as defined by the Supreme Court, was sentenced to death. The hit-men were  sentenced to life.  But the hit-men, who each had the motive of that insurance money, and who claimed (long after the fact), to have masterminded the whole affair, were not given death sentences.

With an IQ of 72, Teresa Lewis was not close enough to mental retardation for the Supreme Court because they refused to take the case.  The State Supreme Court, a U.S. District Court, and the U.S. Court of Appeals, all ruled that Teresa must die for her crime.

According to a September 2010 Newsweek article, written by Lynn Litchfield, there was a letter from one of the two hit-men that Teresa did not “mastermind” the killing, he did.

See the Litchfield article here: Unfit for Execution

Women on Death Row in Florida Today

Casey Anthony is faced with the death penalty should she be convicted of killing her daughter, Caylee Anthony.  If sentenced with death, Casey will join three other Florida female inmate death row:

Tiffany Cole, is now the longest serving female inmate on Florida’s death row.  She was sentenced to death in 2008 for her role in the killing a couple from Jacksonville, Florida.  The couple were murdered as a result of being buried alive.  Cole is currently on death row at Lowell Correctional Institution, which is situated in the Central Florida area, north of Orlando.

Emilia Carr was sentenced to Florida’s death row on February 22, 2011, in Marion County for kidnapping and murdering her boyfriend’s ex-wife, Heather Strong. She and her boy friend were co-defendants.  They lured Heather into a storage shed where they bound her with duct tape to a chair.  They then placed a plastic bag over her head and suffocated her. They buried her in a shallow grave, which was discovered a month later.  Carr is also in the Lowell Correctional Institution.

Margaret A. Allen is a very recent resident of Florida’s death row.  She was sentenced to death in Brevard County on May 19, 2011.  Her crime was the torture and killing of her housekeeper, Wenda Wright, whom Allen suspected of stealing from her.  According to the prosecutors, she tortured Wenda Wright for hours before strangling her with a belt.  Margaret Allen received help from her roommate, James Martin, and her nephew, Quinton Allen, to bury the victim in a shallow grave. The two were also convicted for their part.

Florida Executions since 1973

Since 1973, Florida has executed two women, Judias Buenoano, and Aileen Wournos.

Buenoano was sentenced in 1985 for the 1971 crime in which she poisoned her husband with arsenic.  She was also convicted, and sentenced to life, in the 1980 drowning of her paralyzed son. Then prosecutor Belvin Perry, Jr., prosecuted this case.  Buenoano was the first woman to be executed using the electric chair in the state of Florida.  Her execution occurred in 1998.  The now Judge Belvin Perry witnessed her death.

Aileen Wournos was sentenced to die in 1992 for the murder of a Clearwater, Florida businessman.  Wournos is also thought to have been implicated in the death of a number of other men, and is often referred to as Florida’s only female serial killer. You may recall the movie, Monster, based on her criminal history – her prostitution and terrible escapades with men.

History of Women on Florida’s Death Row

Since 1926, a total of 14 women who were sentenced to death, had their sentences commuted or reversed.  The commuting of a few of the sentences were a result of the U.S. Supreme Court, in 1972, determining that capital punishment laws were unconstitutional.  Capital punishment was reinstated in 1976, hence the death sentences of Aileen Wournos and Judias Buenoano.

One could clearly conclude that Florida does not like to impose or carry out the death penalty on women.  The woman on death row since 1976, who were sentenced to die, and were either released, or had their sentences reversed, have terrible but interesting cases.  I have outlined a short history of the women who were originally sentenced to die, below.

Sonia Jacobs.  Convicted for her part in the shooting of a Florida Highway Patrol trooper and his friend.  Her death sentence was overturned in 1981, and she was sentenced to life with a 25 year minimum mandatory sentence.  In 1992 her case was reversed on appeal, and she plead to second degree murder. She was released in 1992 because she her sentence included time served.

Kaysie Dudly.  Sentenced to death in 1987 for the murder of her mother’s employer – a wealthy Florida widow.  She was re-sentenced (possibly after appeal), to life with a 25 year minimum mandatory.  She is currently serving her time at Lowell Correctional Institution.

Carla Caillier.  Was sentenced to death in 1987 to death for the murder of her husband in 1986, in Tampa.  She was re-sentenced in 1988 (possibly after appeal), to life with a 25 year minimum mandatory.

Dee D. Casteel.  Sentenced in Dade County in 1987 for murdering an 84 year old woman who had been inquiring about her missing son.  Casteel and another person had ordered the woman’s son to be murdered the month before.  Casteel paid two auto mechanics to carry out the murder. Her death sentence was vacated in 1990.  She was then re-sentenced to life, but she died in prison in 2002, at the Broward County Correctional Institution.

Deidre Hunt. Sentenced to death in 1990 for the 1989 shooting of two men that she was paid to kill. She was videotaped killing one of the men.  She plead guilty and was re-sentenced to life in 1998.  She is currently at Homestead Correctional Institution.

Andrea Hicks Jackson. Sentenced to death in 1984 for the murder of a police officer, in Jacksonville, Florida. She filed a false report regarding a vandalized car and shot the officer five times when he attempted to arrest her. Her death warrant was signed in March 1989 but then stayed in May of 1989 by the Florida Supreme Court.  She was re-sentenced to life in 2000, and is currently serving her time at the Lowell Correctional Institution.

Ana Marie Cardona. Sentenced to death for torturing and murdering her three-year-old son. The child was wearing a shirt with lollipops on the front when his beaten body was found by the police in Dade County.  The boy was then nicknamed “Baby Lollipops.”  The sentence was vacated in November of 2002 and she was released from prison.  Will Casey Anthony’s case turn out as this one did?

Virginia Larzelere.  Sentenced to death in 1993 for the killing of her husband, a practicing dentist.  She was re sentenced to life in 2008 and is currently serving her time at the Lowell Correctional Institution.

Women on Death Row in the United States

Since 1976, a total of 12 women have been executed in this country.

Some statistics:

  • Since the year 1608, there are 568 documented cases of executions of women.
  • In the past 100 years, over 40 women have been executed in the U.S.
  • As of September 1, 2000 there were approximately 38 women on death row.
  • As of today, there are approximately 64 women on death row (the numbers will change as more cases are tried).

Will Casey Anthony be number 65?

In reality, the numbers do inform us that the actual instance of execution of female offenders, compared to men, is rare.  According to The Death Penalty Information Center, since 1608, confirmed cases of female executions account for only 2.8% of the total executions carried out.

The Supreme Court, in 1972, had it right when they ruled that capital punishment was cruel and unusual, and wholly unconstitutional.

Will Casey Anthony sit on Florida’s death row?  Of course it will depend on twelve men and women who are hearing her case, so it’s impossible to know. Will the jurors find the State v. Casey Anthony case so egregious – given the position taken by her defense – they will vote for death?

The death penalty outcome for Casey Anthony may be due to her incompetent lawyers.  If she is sentenced, the trial will immediately go into another phase called the “Penalty Phase,” where both sides must provide their case as to whether to give her death (State’s position), or Life (Defense position).

The penalty phase will be tried, on the defense side, by Ann Finnel. She is more than competent and Casey’s only hope for life.

Casey has her age and her gender in her favor, because if you read the stories of the women who had their death sentences reversed, chances are, if Casey Anthony is sentenced to death (and I hope she is not), she may escape death row.  In fact, many cases like Casey Anthony’s have resulted in reversals.

Because Judge Belvin Perry, Jr., is a careful Judge, his death cases have never been reversed – to date.  The Judy Buenoano case, tried by Prosecutor Belvin Perry, Jr., resulted in the penalty of death.  The now Judge Belvin Perry witnessed her execution.  It seems fair to say, then, Judge Perry is not opposed to death.

The Honorable Judge Stan Strickland, the original Judge in the Casey Anthony case, from what I have read, is considered be softer on sentencing defendants to death.  The defense in this case, however, campaigned to have  Judge Strickland removed from the case (for reading a blog), I am more than certain they are sorry now.

However, given the statistics, Florida clearly does not like to kill women.

We will see which way the wind blows in a month, or so.


NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc:

Florida women photos and info:

Research Article:

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