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September 7, 2010

Reviewing some of the rare women who end up on death row

This local story from Virginia, which is headlined "Two women's death row cases share similarities," highlights the kinds of murders that get a few female defendants condemned to die. Here is how the piece begins:

Marilyn Kay Plantz, executed in 2001 by the state of Oklahoma, persuaded her younger lover and his pal to kill her husband for insurance money and stood by as they brutally did so.  Two years later, Teresa Lewis of Pittsylvania County wound up on Virginia's death row for a strikingly similar crime.

More than 1,200 men have been executed in the U.S. since the death penalty resumed in 1977.  If she is put to death as scheduled Sept. 23, Lewis will be just the 12th woman and the first in Virginia in almost a century.

It is a gender gap that largely, if not entirely, can be explained by the relatively few capital crimes committed by women.  The accompanying acts that frequently qualify murders as death-eligible crimes -- such as rape and armed robbery -- overwhelmingly are committed by men.

Mary Atwell, a professor of criminal justice at Radford University and author of "Wretched Sisters: Gender and Capital Punishment," says it is no accident that Lewis, Plantz and their crimes have much in common.  Like many of their male counterparts, females sentenced to death often have histories of substance abuse and mental-health issues.

Unlike men, women usually kill intimates, not strangers.  So, too, did Plantz and Lewis. "There are so many similarities it's almost uncanny," Atwell said.  Among other things, she said, "both of these women had borderline mental retardation and yet they were accused of being the mastermind in the case."

September 7, 2010 at 08:26 AM | Permalink


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You don't have to be smart to be malevolent.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Sep 7, 2010 11:26:26 AM

Also, without the wife's impetus would the men involved have committed the crime? In the cases that end up with death sentences that seems like a dubious proposition. I love how there are people who will excuse acts that pretty much everyone else abhors.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Sep 7, 2010 11:55:53 AM

Curious how women who end up on death row almost always are there for killing their husbands. They also usually have an accomplice and they always cry spousal abuse. It is also curious that if they have "borderline mental retardation", that didn't deter them from knowing there was money in it. I guess its like in "In the Heat of the Night", Rod Steiger said: "I've got the motive which is money and the body which is dead"

Posted by: DaveP | Sep 7, 2010 6:07:28 PM

Nothing accounts for the gender disparity on death row other than women getting preferential treatment by the justice system. Women make up less than 1% of the executions since 1977, yet commit around 10% of the murders. While they don't often commit the sex crime or robbery murders there have been a many contract killings and child murders committed by women where men are far more likely to receive a death sentence. In fact there have been 11 women executed but 12 others granted executive clemency.

Posted by: MikeinCT | Sep 7, 2010 7:25:40 PM

"Marilyn Kay Plantz ... persuaded her younger lover and his pal to kill her husband for insurance money and stood by as they brutally did so."

Sounds like a narrative conceived in a prosecutor's office and fed by supple testimony from "cooperating" witnesses (perhaps the bat-wielding killers themselves). Whatever it lacks in accuracy is more than compensated for by dramatic effect and stark imagery.

The record indicates Plantz, though active in plotting the murder and helping with the cover-up, was in her bedroom when it occurred. The record also suggests her young boyfriend on a number of previous occasions had solicited others to kill Plantz's husband. So who actually persuaded whom to do what is something we'll never know for certain.

These were sad, awful people. I'm glad Plantz is no longer walking freely amongst us, but then she didn't need to be executed to accomplish that.

Posted by: John K | Sep 8, 2010 12:55:07 PM

Thank you, Mike. There should be zero tolerance for feminist lawyers and their male running dogs. It is a hate group, and will be viewed as the KKK is viewed today. The lawyer traitor protected and immunized the KKK from responsibility for 5000 lynchings and the taking of the victim's assets. The vile feminist lawyer traitor is doing the same for the female ruthless murderer.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 9, 2010 11:55:44 PM

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