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

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

18
Mississippi: Gas/Lethal Injection

The state of Mississippi has sentenced eleven women to death since 1900. Five of these women, Carrie McCarty, Pattie Perdue, Mary Holmes, Mildred Johnson, and Ann Knight, were executed. One woman is on death row in Mississippi today.

Execution in Mississippi, previously by gas, is now by lethal injection and the minimum age for the death penalty is 16. Between 1930 and 1976 there were 158 legal executions in Mississippi and since 1977 there have been four.

According to the NAACP ( 1997), African Americans make up half the death row population in Mississippi, despite the fact that African Americans make up only 40 percent of the state population. In Mississippi, killers of whites are five times more likely to receive the death penalty than killers of blacks.

In his recent book ( 1996) Worse than Slavery. Parchman Farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice, Rutgers University history professor David Oshinsky looks at Mississippi's penal system from the early 1900's to the present and notes that among the thirteen southern states, Mississippi led the South in every imaginable kind of mob atrocity:

the most lynchings, most multiple lynchings, most lynchings of women, most lynchings without arrest, most lynchings of victims in police custody, and most public support for the process itself. Mob violence was directed at burglars, arsonists, horse thieves, grave robbers, peeping toms, and troublemakers -- virtually all of them black.

Despite this fact, the Mississippi State Textbook Board rejected the use of a revisionist state history textbook entitled Mississippi: Conflict and Change because it had a picture of a lynch-mob posing for a camera with the body of someone they'd just hanged. At the book trial a committee member said that material like that would make it hard for a teacher to control her students, especially a "white lady teacher" in a predominantly black class. The presiding

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