chapter  Chapter 8
20 Pages

The Female Exemption after 1900

WithLawrence B. Goodheart

This chapter makes the important point in a number of critical cases that no women after this period were judicially executed, which continued the unofficial abolition in evidence since 1786. Bessie Wakefield, in 1914, and Amy Archer Gilligan, in 1919, were the last women actually condemned to death who escaped execution. Although Wakefield gained a pardon in 1920, Gilligan never did. On either side of the twenty-first century, Janet Griffin, Chastity West, and Beth Ann Carpenter received life terms without parole for the vicious homicides of lovers and relatives. The unofficial abolition of judicial execution for women began to be applied to men after 1959, except for “volunteers” for death Joseph Taborsky, in 1960, and Michal Ross, in 2005. Finally, the prospective ban in 2012, the complete abolition in 2015, and its judicial reaffirmation in 2016 resolved the multiple contradictions present in capital punishment, if not in the criminal justice system itself.