[polldaddy poll=8454888]The penalty phase of the Jodi Arias trial marches on, despite ferocious battles over defense claims that cops deleted purported pornography on murder victim Travis Alexander’s computer. Unless this new controversy derails the case, judgment day is coming and soon.
Twelve people will have to decide if they want to kill Jodi Arias, the woman convicted of viciously murdering her Mormon ex-boyfriend. But, will they be able to do it? While racial bias in executions has a long and much discussed history, gender bias in executions has been less of a headline maker…. until now.
The Arizona jury that convicted the pretty waitress/aspiring photographer couldn’t decide whether to give her the death penalty. They came back with a split decision: 8 in favor and 4 against giving her a lethal injection. So, now, a new jury must decide her penalty: life or death.
The re-trial has lots of folks wondering: is it harder to sentence a woman to death, especially an attractive one? As I explain in my New York Times bestseller Exposed: The Secret Life of Jodi Arias, Jodi is a beautiful and intelligent woman who did something incredibly ugly and stupid. She knifed her on again/off again lover 29 times, slitting his throat ear to ear and shooting him in the head. The handsome motivational speaker was planning to take another woman with him on a much-anticipated vacation to Cancun, but never made it because Jodi killed him first.
Jodi Arias proceeded to cover her tracks in the most insidious way, even leaving a voicemail for her murder victim inviting him to a play. She looked detective Esteban Flores in the eyes and told him a slew of lies.  First she denied she was there.
When Flores confronted her with time stamped photos that put her at the crime scene she blamed masked intruders. After contemplating the mountain of irrefutable evidence against her, like her own bloody palm print at the murder scene, she ultimately admitted she killed Travis but claimed self-defense, using a vicious blame the victim strategy where she painted him as a sexual deviant. His family sitting in court was left fuming and in tears.
Some might say if there was any case that warrants the death penalty this would be it and if there’s any woman who deserves to be given a lethal injection, Jodi Arias is that woman. But, will she get it?
The odds that she’ll evade the ultimate punishment just might be on her side. According to some experts, women defendants are steered toward more lenient outcomes at every stage of the judicial process.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center: women account for about for 10% of murder arrests, 2.1% of death sentences imposed at the trial level, about 2% of people on currently on death row and only 1% of persons actually executed in the modern era.
Women are about half the population. But, the Death Penalty Information Center says, since 1976 only 14 women have been executed in the United States while, in that same time period, more than 1,300 men have been put to death.
It’s ironic but it seems women are so non-violent, in a statistical sense, that some experts wonder if there’s even a large enough pool of death penalty murders by women to make a fair comparison. Richard Dieter, the Executive Director of the Death Penalty Information Center told me, “There’s about 60 women on death row and that’s kind of held steady for a good while. It’s dangerous to do statistical studies, especially with each crime being unique, and to say well, there’s a bias, that women aren’t getting the death penalty because juries look more favorably on them.” If the jury’s out on a statistical certainty, some experts are still voting with their gut that women are harder to put to death.
Nationally recognized psychotherapist Dr. Robi Ludwig believes culturally there is a gender bias that favors women noting, “Even staunch feminists who want equality change their tune when it comes to women on death row.”
One reason why female killers seem to have a better chance than men of having their lives spared involves the types of crimes women tend to commit. They are far less likely, for instance, to commit violent rape/murders, deadly home invasions, deadly armed robberies or violent stranger abduction/murders. They far more often kill people they know. Says Dr. Ludwig, “Women tend to commit crimes based on their intimate relationships. So it’s usually either a partner, their husband or their kids and so it’s very hard to justify killing these women when they tend to kill over close family connections. For one, it makes them appear less dangerous.”
And, there’s the damsel in distress factor. Says Dr. Ludwig, “there’s something about a woman being a caregiver and being seen as a nurturer. There’s this mythology around women that when they are sick and become murderous we’re more inclined to give them a pass because we see them as sick and mentally fragile.”
So, will the new jury decide Jodi is a sick, fragile woman who deserves a pass? Or will they decide she is every bit as diabolical and dangerous as a man could ever be? Remember, the verdict must be unanimous. All she needs is one.
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