“Equality Is An Illusion,” Says America’s Youngest Woman On Death Row

by Marissa Dubecky

On Monday, 46 year old Kelly Renee Gissendaner will become the first woman in Georgia to be executed since 1924. Gissendaner was sentenced to death after reportedly convincing her lover to murder her husband, and is scheduled to die by lethal injection. Though Gissendaner’s march to the end of death row will end in just a few days, other women will still be living in anticipation of their own executions.

Emilia Carr, 30, and Tiffany Cole, 33, are both some of the youngest in line for the death penalty, but they prefer to call their present states “life row.” In a recent interview, they explained that their days might be spent in concrete cells, but they are “living, not dying.” The two are currently fighting not for their releases, but for longer lives in prison, deeming the death penalty “legal murder.”

Carr drew attention to the fact that rich people are less likely to be incarcerated, let alone make it to death row: “We’re all people who are either minorities or didn’t have any money, any way to say ‘Hey, let me buy my freedom,’ because it’s not free in this country. Unfortunately, equality is an illusion.” Carr is right that racial minorities comprise the majority of those defendants who cannot afford private attorneys as well as the majority of those incarcerated. But what are the statistics for women on death row?

At large, females comprise a very small percentage of death row’s inmates: Women only account for about 1 in 10 murder arrests, and 1 in 50 death sentences imposed at the trial level. Presently, only 1 out of 67 inmates on death row are female (1.8%), and they make up only 1 in 100 (.9%) of persons actually executed in the modern era. Since 1976, only 15 women have been executed in the US.

Botched executions might be suggesting the phase out of lethal injection (the method Georgia will be using on Gissendaner this Monday), but they don’t mean the end of the practice as a whole: Virginia has already suggested bringing back the electric chair, and Wyoming lawmakers are considering firing squads. Though the country has a tense relationship with the process, there are still over 3,000 people on death row, and there’s no indication the death penalty will disappear anytime soon.

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