women on death row

Judge Dismisses Lawsuit By Georgia’s Only Woman on Death Row


Kelly Gissendaner, convicted in the murder of her husband in Gwinnett, was to die March 2, but ‘cloudy’ lethal drug forced postponement.

Judge Dismisses Lawsuit By Georgia's Only Woman on Death Row

A U.S. District Court judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by Georgia death row inmate Kelly Gissendaner, who claimed she was subjected to cruel and unusual punishment on the day of her postponed execution.

The March 2 execution was postponed indefinitely when authorities found a cloudy appearance in the drug to be used for the lethal injection.

According to media reports, the lawsuit was dismissed Monday by U.S. District Judge Thomas Thrash, who said Gissendaner failed to show her Eighth Amendment rights had been violated.

Gissendaner, Georgia’s only woman on death row, was sentenced to die for masterminding the 1997 murder of her husband in Gwinnett County.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported the suit dismissal clears the way for the state to re-schedule Gissendaner’s execution. There was no word on when that might be.

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Gissendaner was scheduled to die by lethal injection on March 2, but was postponed at the last minute when authorities decided not to use the drug. The execution was scheduled for 7 p.m.; the postponement wasn’t announced until around 11 p.m.

Gissendaner’s suit claimed she was put through undue “mortal fear” as she waited for officials to make a decision on whether or not to use the drug, and charged the state”botched” the execution by failing to have the proper drugs in place for a humane death. The suit also claimed that secrecy surrounding the drugs used for executions in Georgia prevented Gissendaner from proving the execution method could be unconstitutional.

Thrash wrote in his decision, “If anything, the March 2 incident shows that the State is unlikely to use defective drugs,” according to the Associated Press.

Gissendaner, of Auburn, Ga., was convicted of plotting the murder of her husband, Douglas, near Dacula in 1997. If executed, she would be the first woman put to death in Georgia in 70 years.

She was found guilty of convincing her boyfriend Gregory Owen to murder Douglas Gissendaner on Feb. 7, 1997, then went to lengths to deny her involvement, prosecutors said. Owen, who was sentenced to life in prison, avoided the death penaltyby helping prosecutors in the case against Gissendaner.

Authorities said Douglas Gissendaner, a Desert Storm veteran, was beaten and stabbed to death by Owen in a secluded wooded area off Luke Edwards Road near Dacula. The body was found two weeks later.

The attorney general’s office said Owen was waiting for Douglas Gissendaner to return home from a night with church friends, and then took him by knifepoint to the Luke Edwards location. Owen forced the man to his knees, then beat him with a night stick and stabbed him multiple times in the head and neck. Owen took the man’s ring and watch to make it appear it was a robbery.

The attorney general’s office also said Kelly Gissendaner arrived at the scene as the stabbing occurred, and the two took her husband’s vehicle and set it on fire within a mile of the murder scene.

Gissendaner appeared on local television asking for information on her husband’s whereabouts, but authorities said she “basically continued business as usual, even going back to work” in the days after the murder. She gave conflicting stories during interviews with investigators, saying at first there were no marital problems and later admitting to an extra-marital affair with Owen.

Owen confessed to the crime on Feb. 24 and implicated Gissendaner, who was arrested the next day.

Gissendaner was convicted by jury trial on Nov. 18, 1998.

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Photo: Kelly Gissendaner; Georgia Dept. of Corrections

 

 

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Arizona: Debra Milke’s New World after Spending 23 Years on Death Row


In September 2013, 2 1/2 weeks after being released from custody, Debra Milke had a hearing in Maricopa County Superior Court.

Debra Milke

She had spent 24 years behind bars and her eyes were wild, like those of an animal, as she backed into the corner of a crowded elevator, hugging the walls and shaking.
“I was trying to get used to people,” she told The Arizona Republic in an exclusive interview last week. “I was trying not to hyperventilate.”
Milke was a celebrated murderer, convicted of arranging the 1989 murder of her 4-year-old son, Christopher.
Christopher was told he was going to the mall to see Santa Claus. Instead, he was taken into the desert by Milke’s male roommate and one of his friends, and shot in the head.
Milke denied that she had any part in the murder, but a jury thought otherwise. She was sent to death row in 1991 and languished there until March 2013, when a federal appeals court threw out her conviction and her death sentence – not because she was exonerated, but because her constitutional rights had been violated. The prosecution and police had refused to turn over the spotty personnel record of a Phoenix police detective who claimed Milke had confessed to the arranged murder. There were no recordings or witnesses to prove the confession took place.
19 months after the federal appellate decision, an Arizona appeals court determined that it would constitute double jeopardy to retry her for the murder.
Now she lives free in a tile-roofed stucco house in a cookie-cutter development on the fringes of suburban Phoenix.
Her eyes have calmed, her face relaxed as she sits in a darkened room, shades drawn against the light.
She has gained 38 pounds.
“They don’t have ice cream in prison,” she said.
She speaks easily. She is friendly and talkative.
She was 25 and youthful when she went to prison. Now, at 51, she is white-haired and matronly.
“Half my life,” she said, sighing. “I don’t really mourn over that. I can’t get the years back. I accept that. I accept my life as it is now.”
Phoenix is a very different place than it was in 1989. Its population has swelled. So have its boundaries. The freeways baffle her. The supermarkets seem surreally large.
Technology has created gadgets that could not have been imagined in 1989.
Milke is trying to gain insight into who and where she is, like a time traveler from the 1980s who suddenly materialized in the second decade of the 21st century.
She still professes her innocence. Milke claims that she had nothing to do with her son’s murder. But there is no evidence to show she was not involved.
She feels as if she straddles a fence on the death penalty, “a victim on both sides of it,” calling herself the mother of a child who was murdered, who then spent half her life facing execution.
She doesn’t need to see her co-defendants executed.
“It’s not going to change anything,” she said. “They’re going to die in prison.”
She feels she was treated unjustly by the legal system, and even the criminal-defense community is bitterly split on whether she is innocent or guilty.
This is not the story of that argument. Only Milke and the 2 men who took her son to the desert and killed him know what happened. And even then, they may have differing views. But they aren’t talking anyway. While Milke is free, the other 2 remain on death row with little legal recourse standing between them and execution.
This is Milke’s story about being inside, and then about being outside.
“Just imagine being locked in your bathroom for 24 years and no one will let you out,” Milke said. “Just as I had to adapt to prison, now I have to adapt to freedom.”
Learning to live in prison
In December 1989, Milke was recently divorced, and she and Christopher were living in Phoenix with a would-be suitor named James Styers.
In 1 version of the story, Milke wanted the hyperactive child out of her life, and in another version, Styers wanted him gone to improve his chances with Milke. So Styers enlisted a friend named Roger Scott, and on Dec. 3, 1989, they took the boy into the desert and shot him.
Styers and Scott drove to Metrocenter Mall in northwest Phoenix and told a security guard that the child was lost in the mall. Police didn’t believe the story and Scott confessed, implicating Milke. Then he led police to the boy’s body.
Milke was arrested at her parents’ home in Florence and interrogated by Phoenix police Detective Armando Saldate. He claimed that Milke confessed her involvement in the murder. But there was no tape or video recording of the confession and no one else had witnessed it. Milke flatly denied she had confessed or that she had arranged her son’s death.
Eventually, Deputy Maricopa County Attorney Noel Levy persuaded the jury to bring back a guilty verdict against Milke, and Superior Court Judge Cheryl Hendrix sentenced her to death.
Scott and Styers were also sentenced to death.
Milke no longer remembers which law-enforcement agency came for her on that February day in 1991 when she was taken from a Maricopa County jail to the Arizona State Prison Complex- Perryville in Goodyear.
She was a nervous wreck, and a jail doctor gave her an Ativan tablet to ease her anxiety before they loaded her into a car and drove her west on Interstate 10.
“I just remember the freeway seemed endless,” she said.
As she was led in handcuffs across the yards into the prison, she thought, “I’m not going to die here. I’m not going to live the rest of my life here. I’m going to get out.”
She cried all through her 1st night, angry at “God and everybody.”
Then she began to learn to live in prison.
Technically, she was on death row, but there was no such place in Perryville and she was its only occupant, and even then, it was only semantics. The next woman on death row, Wendi Andriano, who beat her husband to death, would not arrive until 2005. The third, Shawna Forde, an anti-immigrant vigilante involved in a double murder, followed in 2011.
So in 1991, Milke’s cell-block neighbors were general-population prisoners who were being disciplined in maximum security: prostitutes and gang-bangers – bad girls, career criminals. Though officially deemed an ogre, unlike the others, Milke was a middle-class girl who had never been in trouble before.
She saw drug overdoses and fights.
“I’ve seen inmates on fire,” she said, women who lit themselves in desperation and craziness. “I’ve seen a lot of crazy stuff.”
Today, death-row prisoners, especially the men, spend 23 hours a day locked in their cells with little contact with other prisoners or the outside world.
Milke had a cell with a window in its door, and anyone in the unit could walk up to it and talk to her. She had 2 windows to the outside world on the other side of her cell, 1 of which opened about 2 inches.
She was treated like a trustee. After 2 in the afternoon, she was allowed to stay out of her cell until 9 p.m., even going outside in a fenced-in part of her unit. She was allowed to help the correctional officers with dinner. She took correspondence courses.
That changed after 1997, when corrections Officer Brent Lumley was murdered by a male inmate. Afterward, a new wing bearing Lumley’s name was built at the Perryville prison, and the male prisoners were moved to Arizona State Prison Complex-Lewis near Buckeye.
Milke had to learn to live in lockdown.
“I had to have the window open around the clock,” she said. “Otherwise I felt claustrophobic. I used to listen to the traffic on I-10 and watch the airplanes and wonder where they were going or coming from.”
Even if she knew what day it was, she lost all sense of time, describing the days as a conveyor belt with 1 rolling into the next. She built a routine: writing from 5:30 to 6:30, then showering, cleaning supplies, TV shows, reading.
She taught herself algebra. She read books she should have read in school, by Leo Tolstoy and Nathaniel Hawthorne.
She became friends with Andriano, and the 2 talked through a vent between their cells. They would pass coffee or tea to each other during shift changes, when they were less likely to be seen, by rolling up pieces of paper and telescoping them together until they had long wands that would reach from one cell to the next.
“Every year it was all the same,” she said. “It just melted one into another.”
Appeal victory
Milke’s case tracked through Arizona state courts without relief and then, as happens with capital cases, it bounced into federal court. Her attorneys had uncovered the sordid record of Detective Saldate, who had been fired from the Phoenix Police Department for his bad acts.
In March 2013, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out Milke’s conviction and death sentence and ordered that she either be released or retried. The ruling noted that Saldate had a long history of misconduct that called his credibility into question.
On March 14, 2013, Milke said, she was lying on the floor of her cell talking to Andriano through the vent when a female correctional officer came with the news that one of her lawyers, Lori Voepel, was on the phone.
The first thing she said was, “We won.”
“I just started shaking on the inside,” Milke said. Voepel started to explain the ruling. “It went in one ear and out the other,” Milke said.
It took until July before the state of Arizona decided to retry her and transfer her to a Maricopa County jail. The case went to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, and County Attorney Bill Montgomery vowed to continue to seek the death penalty and send Milke back to Perryville.
Milke learned of the transfer the night before she would go. She packed some things, donated her TV and radio so that some other prisoner could have them and was sent to the Estrella Jail in south Phoenix.
Life in jail is harsher than life in prison – no windows, no TV, no clocks.
“You would ask what time it was and no one would tell you,” she said.
She could not stomach the food. She was stressed by the noise. And when she would be taken to her court hearings, she looked as haggard and unkempt and wild as a witch in a fairy tale.
But on Sept. 6, 2013, Superior Court Judge Rosa Mroz ruled that Milke could be released on $250,000 bond. She was taken to Lower Buckeye Jail, where she changed into street clothes. Then her other lawyer, Michael Kimerer, secreted her away by car to Voepel’s office, where a court officer affixed an electronic monitoring device to Milke’s ankle.
“This bracelet means freedom to me,” she told the officer.
She snacked on a vegetarian sandwich that had been brought in for her, because she craved vegetables. And on the way to a welcome-home party at a friend’s home, they drove through a Starbucks restaurant because she had heard in prison that the coffee was wonderful.
“It was gross,” she said.
Welcome to the 21st century, Debra Milke.
European Backing
Unlike many inmates released from prison, Debra Milke has a strong and wealthy support system, and it is centered in Europe.
Milke was born in Germany, and her parents moved back there and then on to Switzerland, where they lived the last of their lives. Milke’s mother died after Milke was released from custody but before all charges were dropped, so she was not allowed to travel to Switzerland to see her mother on her death bed.
Capital punishment is illegal in Europe, and Europeans are stridently against its use elsewhere. There have been books and movies about Milke, and the French- and German-speaking media have assiduously followed her case.
In effect, she is perceived in Europe as Amanda Knox is perceived in the United States: a poor, innocent woman caught up in some unjust foreign judicial system.
(Knox and Milke, incidentally, have met.)
Subsequently, Milke’s European supporters footed her bond, and she is living in the Phoenix-area home of a German friend.
But on her first night out of custody, she might just as well have still been on the inside.
She ventured timidly out into the house’s backyard. The next night she dared step into the front yard. And on the 3rd day, her German friend took her for a walk around the block.
“It was strange. There were all these houses and cars,” she said.
She was overwhelmed the 1st time she went to the supermarket. “I was amazed at how huge the stores had become and became panicky.”
When she saw a woman and a young boy in one aisle, and heard the child say, “Mommy, I want this,” she fell apart.
Her first trip to Walmart was worse. And the first dinner out at a sports bar was unbearable for the noise, the talking and the overstimulation. She panicked at the State Fair.
She couldn’t bring herself to read or watch television because she had done so much in prison.
She bought a computer but left it in the box for a month, bought a flip phone and then eased into a smartphone but can’t fathom the things she can do with it.
“It was odd to see everyone walking around with a phone, and strange and annoying walking around listening to everyone’s conversations,” she said. “I wanted to just turn around and tell them to shut up.”
Because she was in isolation for so many years, she never got sick. Now she falls victim to every flu bug and suffers from allergies
After 24 years of waiting to get back to life, it was difficult to know what to do because she was overwhelmed by options.
She got a dog. She toils in the garden of her friend’s house.
Her attorneys persuaded her to go back to work and she found a job as a bookkeeper 5 days a week.
Mulling name change
In September 2014, the Arizona Court of Appeals dismissed all charges against Milke, ruling that retrying her would be tantamount to double jeopardy. The Arizona Supreme Court let the lower court decision stand. That freed Milke to travel and to move on in her life.
She will spend the next month in Europe, visiting with her remaining relatives there, fulfilling contractual obligations with German media, and traveling to Switzerland to visit her mother’s grave and tend to her estate.
She has filed a lawsuit in federal court against the city of Phoenix, Maricopa County, County Attorney Montgomery, disgraced Detective Saldate and other police officers, alleging malicious prosecution and civil-rights violations.
She is considering changing her name. She wants to fade into the world but is worried that going to court to change names will call more attention to her and reveal her new identity anyway.
She says she knows where she wants to live – but won’t tell so that she can become anonymous.
She is seeing a psychiatrist.
“I’m trying to figure out who I am today,” she said. “I’m trying to figure out how to pick up the pieces and move ahead.”
Source: WFMY news, August 3, 2015
 

Mississippi death row inmate Michelle Byrom to get new trial


April 1, 2014

(CNN) — A new trial has been ordered for Mississippi death row inmate Michelle Byrom, according to a state Supreme Court opinion issued Monday.

Byrom’s capital murder conviction was reversed, and the case has been remanded to the circuit court for a new trial, the opinion said.

“We are very grateful that the Mississippi Supreme Court has granted Michelle Byrom’s request for relief from her death sentence,” said Byrom’s attorney, David Calder. “This was a team effort on the part of the attorneys currently representing Michelle, and we believe that the court reached a just and fair result under the facts presented in this case.”

Byrom has been on death row since her 2000 conviction for capital murder. The 57-year-old woman was convicted of being the mastermind of a murder-for-hire plot to kill her allegedly abusive husband, a killing her son had admitted to committing in several jailhouse letters and, according to court documents, in an interview with a court-appointed psychologist.

He recanted when he was put on the stand, according to court records.

Attorney General Jim Hood, who had requested Byrom’s execution, said Monday his office would seek the court’s reasoning for the reversal.

“While we respect the Mississippi Supreme Court’s decision, it is important that the trial court know and understand the specific errors that were found by the justices so that the lower court knows the best way to proceed,” he said. “Our citizens can once again take comfort in the fact that we have a legal system that works for all parties involved.”

The Supreme Court opinion noted that the decision “is extraordinary and extremely rare in the context of a petition for leave to pursue post-conviction relief.”

Oliver Diaz, the former presiding justice of the Supreme Court, called the opinion “actually kinda amazing,” from the order for a new trial to the ruling’s release on a Monday instead of a Thursday, as usual.

“The lawyers filed a last ditch motion for additional post conviction relief. These are almost never granted. Defendants are limited to a single post conviction motion,” he wrote in an e-mail to CNN. “It is extremely rare to grant and send back for a new trial.”

The court further instructed that a different judge should be assigned to Byrom’s new trial.

Circuit Judge Thomas J. Gardner, who imposed the death sentence on Byrom after her conviction, declined to comment to CNN, saying, “The matter is ongoing.”

Diaz also said the order for a new judge was extraordinary.

“Also, taking the step of removing the original trial judge is very unusual as well,” he wrote.

Tara Booth, spokeswoman for the Mississippi Department of Corrections, said the department expects an order Tuesday to transfer Byrom from the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility to Tishomingo County, where the killing occurred.

Hood, the attorney general, had requested that Byrom be executed “on or before (the date of) March 27,” but the Mississippi Supreme Court, which has the final say on execution dates, denied Hood’s request.

During Michelle Byrom’s original trial, prosecutors said she plotted to kill her husband, who was fatally shot in his home in Iuka, Mississippi, in 1999 while Michelle was in the hospital receiving treatment for double pneumonia. A jury convicted her based on evidence and testimony alleging that she was the mastermind of the plot.

Byrom Jr. admitted in jailhouse letters that he had committed the crime on his own after growing tired of his father’s physical and verbal abuse, and a court-appointed psychologist has said that Byrom Jr. told him a similar story.

On the stand, Byrom Jr. pinned the slaying on one of his friends, whom he said his mother had hired for $15,000.

Following her attorney’s advice, Michelle Byrom waived her right to a jury sentencing, allowing the judge to decide her fate. He sentenced her to death.

Prior to Monday’s ruling, Michelle Byrom’s defense attorneys had filed a motion asking the court for additional discovery so the alleged confession to the court-appointed psychologist could be fully explored.

The defense attorneys also want to depose the prosecutor from her trial, Arch Bullard, regarding his knowledge of Byrom Jr.’s alleged confession to the psychologist.

Bullard has told CNN that he firmly believes Michelle Byrom was the mastermind of the murder-for-hire plot.

CALIFORNIA : Death sentence upheld for Montebello woman who murdered her husband – Angelina Rodriguez


february 20, 2014(latimes)

Angelina Rodriguez during her 2004 sentencing for murder. Her death sentence was upheld Thursday by the California Supreme CourtSAN FRANCISCO — The California Supreme Court unanimously upheld the death penalty Thursday for a Montebello woman convicted of murdering her husband for life insurance and implicated in the choking death years earlier of her baby daughter.

 

Angelina Rodriguez fatally poisoned her husband, a special education teacher, by serving him drinks laced with oleander and antifreeze in 2000, a few months after persuading him to take out joint life insurance policies, the court said.

It was her second attempt, according to the ruling written by Justice Ming W. Chin.  She had previously tried to kill him by loosening natural gas valves in their garage, the court said.

Rodriguez had married Jose Francisco Rodriguez several months before his death.

During her murder trial, the prosecution also presented evidence implicating her in the 1993 death of her 13-month-old daughter, Alicia. Rodriguez was married to another man at the time.

The baby died after choking on the rubber nipple of a pacifier. Two months earlier, Rodriguez had taken out a $50,000 life insurance policy on the baby—without her then-husband’s knowledge—and made herself the beneficiary, the court said.

Rodriguez and Alicia’s father also sued the manufacturer of the pacifier, which had been recalled based on five consumer complaints that it had broken apart. The company paid a $710,000 settlement.

While behind bars for the murder of her husband, Rodriguez  tried to dissuade a witness from testifying against her, the court said. The jury convicted of her interfering with the witness but failed to reach a verdict on a charge that she tried to have the witness murdered.

In challenging her conviction and sentence, Rodriguez argued, among other things, that the jury should not have been told she killed her daughter.  Rodriguez was not charged or convicted in connection with the death, but law enforcement reexamined it after the poisoning of her husband.

The court said the jury was entitled to hear about the child’s death during the penalty phase of deliberations.

“There was ample evidence that defendant murdered her daughter,” Chin wrote.

Karen Kelly, who is representing Rodriguez on appeal, said she would ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the decision.

California supreme court /opinion : click to read, pdf file

Bid to spare Jodi Arias from death penalty rejected by Arizona judge


february 9, 2014

Phoenix – An Arizona judge rejected a bid by the lawyers of Jodi Arias, the woman convicted last year in the death of Travis Alexander, to spare her from the death penalty. As reported by Reuters, court papers related to the judge’s ruling were released on Friday.

Maricopa Superior Court Judge Sherry Stephens stated in her ruling that the claim by defense attorneys that a state law permitting a second penalty phase for Arias was unconstitutional and represented cruel and unusual punishment was wrong.

Alexander was found dead in his Phoenix home in 2008 after being stabbed and shot. Arias was convicted of murder in May 2013, but a jury deadlocked in trying to determine her sentencing. A new jury is set to reconvene on March 17 for the trial’s second penalty phase.

Stephens is quoted by Reuters as writing in part of her three-page ruling, “Defendant has not been ‘acquitted’ of the death sentence by the jury’s failure to reach a verdict, and thus there is no constitutional bar to retrying the penalty phase.”

This report is provided by Justice News Flash – Phoenix Legal News

5 female death-row cases make Arizona a national outlier


february 5, 2014 (usatoday)

Women make up less than 2 percent of death-row populations in the United States. There are two women on death row in Arizona, and no woman has been executed here since Eva Dugan was hanged in 1930.

On Jan. 17, the Arizona Supreme Court upheld the death sentence for Shawna Forde, a self-styled anti-immigration vigilante convicted of killing two people southwest of Tucson in 2009.

On Jan. 23, a Maricopa County Superior Court judge refused to reconsider her decision to allow a former Phoenix police detective to invoke the Fifth Amendment in the Debra Milke case, putting Milke’s potential retrial on hold until prosecutors can file a special action appeal. Milke was freed after 23 years on death row when the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted her a new trial.

Wendi Andriano, who was sent to death row in 2004 for murdering her husband, is back in Maricopa County Superior Court for the next two weeks in a stage called post-conviction relief, arguing that she deserves a new trial because her defense attorneys did not represent her effectively.

Marissa DeVault’s trial starts Thursday on charges of killing her husband with a hammer in 2009.

And Jodi Arias will go back to trial on March 17 to determine if she should be sentenced to death or to life in prison for the 2008 murder of her lover Travis Alexander.

Andriano and Arias were portrayed as lying vixens, their sex lives detailed right down to their choice of personal sexual lubricants.

The DeVault case is certain to be salacious; she was a stripper and claims the husband she killed was abusive and forced her to sleep with other men. All three allege domestic violence in their defense.

Meanwhile, one of DeVault’s lovers will be confronted over child pornography found in his computer when he testifies against her.

“If it’s a woman, (prosecutors) have to defeminize her before they can humanize her,” Streib said.

It may not matter.

“Once sentenced to death, the likelihood of being executed is practically zero,” Streib said.

Death-penalty cases are rarely clear-cut; less so when the defendants are women.

ast spring, a first jury could not reach a decision as to whether to let Arias live or die.

In 2010, a Superior Court jury balked at sending Marjorie Orbin to death row, even though it found her guilty of killing her husband and cutting him in pieces.

One chunk of his torso was found in a plastic tub in the desert in north Phoenix.

And in 2002, the Arizona Supreme Court threw out a death sentence for Doris Carlson, who paid two men to kill her mother-in-law in 1996, after determining that the murder was not committed in an especially cruel, heinous or depraved manner. That is one of the aggravating factors alleged in the DeVault case, and the Arias argument on the death penalty is based on the murder being considered especially cruel.

Capital cases against women also are often more complex because the crimes are often more passionate and more intimate.

“The death penalty is mostly about crimes against strangers. That really frightens people,” said Elizabeth Rapaport, a law professor at the University of New Mexico.

Those crimes often include rapes and robberies, “and women just don’t do those kind of crimes,” Rapaport said.

Women who kill tend to kill spouses, lovers, children and family members.

“Those cases are rarely capital cases,” she said.

And as Victor Streib added, there is a general reluctance on the part of juries to send women to death row.

“Women tend to be favored,” said Streib, a defense attorney and law professor who retired from Ohio Northern University. Streib, who has written books on female killers, also provided statistics on the subject to the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C.

According to the most recent statistics, as of January 2013, only 63 out of 3,125 inmates on death rows nationwide were women, about 2 percent. Only 14 women have been executed since 1973: four in Texas, three in Oklahoma, two in Florida, and one each in North Carolina, Arkansas, Alabama and Virginia., Texas

“What I always say when asked about this question is that there are no sophisticated studies indicating that women are treated more leniently in the capital-punishment system,” said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. “Their numbers are too small to draw statistically relevant conclusions. What we do know is that women commit about 10percent of murders, comprise about 2percent of death rows and account for about 1percent of executions.”

Death sentences are supposed to be reserved for the worst of the worst murderers. Each case has a unique set of facts and evidence, and there is no foolproof scientific way to make the assessment as to which are the worst. And prosecutors must find appropriate aggravating factors from a set list dictated by state statute. It’s not just a question of how horrible the murder seems to the public.

Still, the seeming randomness of the system is at times shocking: A drug cartel member cuts off the head of a rival who ripped him off, pleads guilty to second-degree murder and gets a 14-year prison sentence; a man beats his girlfriend to death, leaves her naked body in the street and is charged with second-degree murder.

Wade Bradford is accused of killing two girlfriends, one in front of a male rival in the garage of a Tempe condo; the other was found four years after her murder in a rented storage facility in the West Valley.

The first of his trials went to the jury on Tuesday. Neither case is capital.

“There may even be evidence that when women do cross the line into violent murders, they may face being punished more severely than men because their murders stand out,” Dieter said. “They are outside the expected behavior of women.”

But as Dieter pointed out, there are no studies to prove or disprove that theory.

When prosecutors seek death against women, the cases tend to be sordid. They are about money. Or sex. Or domestic violence. Or betrayal.

Prosecutors alleged that Milke, Andriano and DeVault killed for insurance money; Forde was trying to steal a drug dealer’s cash.

Andriano and Arias were portrayed as lying vixens, their sex lives detailed right down to their choice of personal sexual lubricants.

The DeVault case is certain to be salacious; she was a stripper and claims the husband she killed was abusive and forced her to sleep with other men. All three allege domestic violence in their defense.

Meanwhile, one of DeVault’s lovers will be confronted over child pornography found in his computer when he testifies against her.

“If it’s a woman, (prosecutors) have to defeminize her before they can humanize her,” Streib said.

It may not matter.

“Once sentenced to death, the likelihood of being executed is practically zero,” Streib said.