26 Ohio N.U. L. Rev. 581 (2000)
Equality of the Damned: The Execution of Women on the Cusp of the 21st Century

handle is hein.journals/onulr26 and id is 589 raw text is: Equality of the Damned: The Execution of Women on the Cusp
of the 21st Century
ELIZABETH RAPAPORT*
I. WOMEN ARE RARELY EXECUTED: WHAT Do THE NUMBERS MEAN?
In the period beginning with the reaffirmation of capital punishment in
the United States in 1976,1 until the present day,' more than 600 men but only
four women have been executed.3 The execution of Karla Faye Tucker in
1998, the second of the four women to be executed, occurred in the midst of
relentless publicity.4 The Tucker execution revived interest in gender equity
in the administration of capital punishment. Although one woman, Velma
Barfield, had been executed fourteen years earlier in a comparable media
storm, the Tucker execution took place after weeks of speculation as to
whether Governor Bush of Texas, and indeed any contemporary American
governor, would allow a woman to be executed.' Would George W. Bush,
who styles himself a compassionate conservative,',6 allow a pretty white
woman of childbearing age to be executed? Governor Bush, at the time that
this decision was thrust upon him, was readying himself to run for re-election
as governor of Texas in less than a year and was also a prominent contender
for the Republican presidential nomination in the 2000 election.7 Governor
* © 2000 Elizabeth Rapaport
Visiting Professor of Law, Duke University, and Professor of Law, University of New Mexico. Chris
Trump provided excellent research assistance in the preparation of this article, for which I thank him.
I. See Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153 (1976). The Supreme Court's action brought to a close a
decade long moratorium on executions during which the future of capital punishment had been in doubt.
See id. A 1972 decision, Furman v. Georgia, held that all extant capital punishment statutes violated the
Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, but in 1976, the Court embarked upon its course of elaborating
standards for applying capital punishment and testing the constitutionality of successfully designed statutes.
See Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238, 240 (1972); Gregg, 428 U.S. at 206-07.
2. This article was prepared for presentation at the Symposium on the Ultimate Penalty: A
Multifarious Look at Capital Punishment, Ohio Northern University Law School on March 24, 2000.
Subsequently, on May 3, 2000, a fifth woman, Christina Marie Riggs was executed in Arkansas. See
Yellin, infra note 168, at A22.
3. By year's end 1999, there had been 598 executions. See TRACY L. SNELL, U.S. DEP'T OF
JusTCE, CAPITAL PUNISHMENT 1998, at 12 (1999) [hereinafter CAPITAL PUNISHMENT 19981 (noting the
number of executions from 1977 to 1999).
4. See Victor L. Streib, Death Penalty for Female Offenders January 1973, to June 1999 (last
modified June 1999) <www.law.onu.edu/faculty/streib/femdeath.html>.
5. See generally GEORGE W. BUSH, A CHARGE TO KEEP 140-55 (1999) (detailing the events
leading up to the execution).
6. Id. at 235.
7. See id. at 186, 222-23.

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