Women and the Death Penalty in the United States, 1900-1998

By Kathleen A. O'Shea | Go to book overview

4
Arkansas: Electrocution/Lethal Injection

The state of Arkansas has sentenced two women to death since 1900. No woman has been legally executed in Arkansas, and there is one woman on death row in Arkansas today.

In 1913 the state of Arkansas adopted electrocution as the official form of execution and in 1996 a bill was introduced in the Arkansas legislature to replace execution with lethal injection. Under the new bill any persons convicted of a capital offense after July 4, 1983 will be executed by lethal injection while those convicted before that date may choose between lethal injection and electrocution. The minimum age for execution in Arkansas is 16 although juveniles can be tried as adults at age 14 if the charge is capital murder.

In 1998, after two boys ages 11 and 13 shot and killed four girls and a teacher and left ten others injured at a local school, Arkansas authorities began to review and question their existing state laws regarding juvenile criminals and capital offenses. The current law states that no one under age 14 may be tried as an adult.

This is not a new discussion. These issues were first considered in Arkansas, 117 years ago in the state Supreme Court. A statute then held that a child under age 12 could not be found guilty of any crime or misdemeanor. Under Arkansas common law if a child indicted for a felony was between the ages of 7 and 13 it was up to the jury to decide whether the "prisoner had a guilty knowledge that he or she was doing wrong" ( McFarland, 1998). The presumption of law, according to the courts, was that a child of that age "has not such guilty knowledge, unless the contrary be proven by evidence." The law further stated that in the case of children, who fell into the 12 to 13 years-of-age range, the common law presumption was that the alleged offender "is not capable of discerning between good and evil."

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