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Wednesday, Apr. 23, 2014

Gender should not dictate punishment

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

"Of the 3,700 prisoners on death row in the United States, only 52 are women."

As harsh as it might sound, I hope true justice prevails in the case of Charaty White who is facing the death penalty in Missouri for a brutal stabbing three years ago. Granted, our society - and rightfully so - is squeamish about the question of capital punishment for women. Of the 3,700 prisoners on death row in the United States, only 52 are women. Experts say it's doubtful if any of those women are actually executed.

But if the death penalty is to be applied fairly and uniformly, Charaty White is a prime candidate. Three years ago White's boyfriend was in jail on a drug-related murder when he "ordered" White and two others to kill a witness who was to testify against him. White and two others beat, burned with cigarettes and then stabbed to death Danielle Montgomery, a 19-year-old, set to testify against the boyfriend.

All three women pled guilty to second-degree murder in exchange for testimony against the imprisoned boyfriend. But when she appeared in court, White balked at the agreement. That's when police charged her with first degree murder.

So now White will soon stand trial and the state has already said it would seek the death penalty. That would make her only the sixth woman convicted of capital murder in the past 25 years. And the others who were convicted have since had their sentenced downgraded to life in prison.

The murder was indeed brutal and well-planned. The boyfriend is already facing the death sentence for his drug-related killing and this will just hasten his departure from this earth. But White is the one who actually wielded the knife and stabbed to death the victim. She made a major mistake when she rejected the second-degree murder charge and now she is about to pay the price for that mistake.

We all may have qualms about condemning a women to death row but a crime is a crime and the brutal nature deserves the ultimate penalty. It may not be a red letter day in Missouri if this case ends that way. But justice would be served by that decision.

In this case and others, we need to ignore the gender of the convicted and concentrate on the actions that brought them to court in the first place. Ignoring the fact that White is a woman may not be easy. But justice dictates that's exactly what we should do.



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