Die Website gegen Sexismus - unabhängig vom Geschlecht

Mörderinnen sind bessere Menschen

Frauen werden für die gleichen Verbrechen, das zeigen zahlreiche Statistiken, in Europa wie in den USA milder bestraft als Männer. Besonders drastisch trifft dies bei der – ohnehin ethisch inakzeptablen – Todesstrafe zu: Was Antirassisten zurecht kritisieren, daß ein verhältnismäßig hoher Anteil der Todeskandidaten, die in den USA auf ihre Hinrichtung warten, Schwarze sind, da das Strafmaß rassistisch gefärbt ist ("Obwohl die Schwarzen in den Vereinigten Staaten nur etwa 12 Prozent der Gesamtbevölkerung ausmachen, haben weit mehr als 12 Prozent der Gefängnisinsassen eine dunkle Hautfarbe. Bei den TodeskandidatInnen geht die Zahl der Afro-AmerikanerInnen sogar auf die 50 Prozent zu.", Voice Nr. 16, Jan. 1999), gilt in weit größerem Maß für die sexistische Diskriminierung: obwohl jede achte Person, die des Mordes angeklagt wird, eine Frau ist, ist nur eine von 72 Todeskandidaten weiblich, und nur 7 der über 700 seit 1976 in den USA Hingerichteten.
"Frauen werden auch als Opfer anders behandelt; es wird immer von den Frauen und Kindern gesprochen, die (bei tödlichen Verbrechen) umgebracht wurden" , so der Jurist Victor Streib. "Es ist, als sei das Leben einer Frau kostbarer."
Offenbar sind Mörderinnen bessere Menschen.

Female on state's death row?

It's unprecedented, but possible for Everett woman
Barbara Opel has lived on the fourth floor of the Snohomish County Jail for more than a month now, sometimes in a dorm-style room with other women, sometimes in smaller cells. And always, her lawyer says, very scared.

The 38-year-old, accused of bribing a group of teenagers to kill her boss, has been charged with aggravated first-degree murder, which carries two possible penalties: life without parole or death.

That means Opel could one day become the first woman in Washington state to be executed. She won't know for several months whether prosecutors will seek the death penalty. Even if they do, and she is convicted, a jury would still need to decide on the punishment in a separate deliberation. By being charged with aggravated murder – the only capital crime in Washington – Opel has entered unusual territory for females.

Of 229 aggravated-murder convictions in Washington since May 1981, when the state's revised death-penalty law went into effect, only seven have involved females, according to state Supreme Court records.

Prosecutors sought the death penalty for only one -- Susan Kroll, who hired two Idaho men to shoot her husband in 1989 in Asotin County – and the jury disagreed, giving her a life sentence.

Of about 70 aggravated-murder charges King County prosecutors have filed the past two decades, it is believed only one case involved a female defendant, a spokesman said.

Snohomish County prosecutors can remember only one other time they've charged a woman with the offense in the past decade. She eventually pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to 23 years in prison.

Snohomish County prosecutors would not comment on their consideration of the death penalty for Opel, or how they go about deciding what penalty to seek for defendants charged with aggravated murder.

Opel's Everett lawyers, Pete Mazzone and Brian Phillips, are expected to submit a report to prosecutors in September giving reasons why she should not face the possibility of capital punishment.

"I'm hopeful they will not seek it," Mazzone said. "I think when everything is taken into account, there will be significant mitigating circumstances."

Prosecutors say Opel enlisted a group of teenagers to kill Jerry Heimann, 64, who had hired Opel to care for his elderly mother. Opel is accused of hiding in Heimann's basement, shouting encouragement, as the youths allegedly pummeled him with baseball bats and stabbed him. One of the teens charged with murder is her 13-year-old daughter.

Prosecutors allege Opel promised to buy one of the teens a car and clothing, offered skating money to another and paid two others with a $250 check stolen from Heimann after he was killed.

Hiring someone to commit murder is one of the so-called aggravating circumstances that make a defendant eligible for the death penalty in Washington. Others include murders committed against law-enforcement officers, murders involving multiple victims, and those committed during rapes, arsons, kidnappings and burglaries.

Mazzone believes Opel's troubled past and her lack of a criminal record will be the most compelling considerations in her favor as prosecutors consider what punishment to seek. But he also believes the fact she is a woman will figure on some level, even if it does not color prosecutors' decision.

"It's one of those intangibles, one of those things that you can't put your finger on. I think, if anything, it helps (the defense case)," he said. "I think ... people disfavor the ultimate penalty for women. Why that is in this day of equality of the sexes, I don't know."

Victor Streib, a law professor at Ohio Northern University who tracks death-penalty cases involving female offenders, says there is a gender bias when it comes to capital punishment. "Probably stronger than a race bias," he said.

Women account for about one in eight murder arrests nationally, but only about one in 72 people on death row, he said. Of more than 700 people executed in the U.S. since 1976, only seven have been women, according to the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C.

Even advocates of capital punishment sometimes balk at the notion of executing a woman, Streib said. "I've had politicians say to me, `We don't treat our women that way.' ... It's like in a football game: If you knock down a guy, you're a hero; if you knock down a girl, you're a guy who hits girls."

Streib and others point to the 1998 execution of Karla Faye Tucker. A national outcry erupted when Tucker – an attractive, 38-year-old white woman who embraced Jesus after killing two people with a 15-pound pickax – was about to be put to death in Texas. "It's like there's something more valuable about women's lives," Streib said. "Women are also treated differently when they're victims; you always hear about the women and children killed (in fatal crimes)."

John Junker, a University of Washington criminal-law professor, doubts prosecutors would hesitate to charge women with aggravated murder when warranted. "But they might be reluctant to ask for the death penalty, either because of their own attitudes about women or because of their assessment of what community attitudes might be," he said.

Other death-penalty experts insist a gender bias does not exist, claiming the discrepancy is more due to the kinds of murders women tend to commit.

"They rarely murder in the course of violent crimes against strangers," said Elizabeth Rapaport, a University of New Mexico law professor and one of the nation's foremost experts on women and the death penalty. "I am not going to argue that there never has been a break cut for somebody because she's a woman, but the huge explanation is ineligibility. Women very rarely commit the kinds of murders that (state) statutes treat as aggravated."

Streib acknowledges this could partly account for the vast disparity in executions of women and men. But he said it doesn't explain discrepancies entirely, claiming no woman has ever been executed in the Northwest.

"There is no racial group for which I could say one-fourth of the United States has never executed them. It's just so striking," he said. "You may as well not have the death penalty for women there."

Those words may be little comfort to Opel and her attorneys. Since Washington reinstated the death penalty in 1981, three men have been executed in the state, all in the 1990s, including one – Charles Campbell – convicted in Snohomish County. Last month, another man was sentenced to death, in King County.

"The stakes are so high," Mazzone said. "I can just tell you she's very afraid."

Quelle: Seattle Times, 8. Juni 2001 (etwa 8076 Zeichen)
Achim Stößer, 10. April 2002, 21. Juli 2002