Sisters of Death: The State-Sanctioned Murder of Women on Death Row

by Johannah Short
Criminology and Criminal Justice
Faculty advisor: Dr. Neal McNabb

In the criminal justice system, there has been a long-standing gender gap between women, especially in regards to convictions and severity of punishment.  Women are less likely to be prosecuted by the criminal justice system than are men, and there have been numerous studies that have shown women who are convicted of murder have a substantially lower rate of being sentenced to death than men convicted of a similar offense.   This poster is an examination of women in the criminal justice system, with special consideration given to the death penalty and the prosecution of capital cases.  One popular argument regarding differential treatment based on gender is chivalry theory.  This theory argues that women are not treated the same as men by the criminal justice system because prosecutors, judges, and juries base their decisions on traditional gender roles (women have traditionally been stereotyped as nurturing, soft and gentle and should be treated more leniently than their male counterparts).  Differential association, another popular theory in criminology, explains that everyone learns behavior based on their social relationships, including criminal behavior.  Differential association theory has been used to explain the behavior of both Karla Faye Tucker and Aileen Wuornos, who are thought of as two of the most violent women sentenced to death row (and subsequently executed).  Both chivalry theory and differential association theory, and how they relate to women and the death penalty, will be explored in this project.