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

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

19
Missouri: Lethal Injection

The state of Missouri has sentenced five women to death since 1900. One, a federal prisoner, Bonnie Brown Heady, was executed. One woman is on death row in Missouri today.

In 1991 the state of Missouri made history by becoming the first state to sentence two married couples to death in separate trials and for separate crimes in the same year. Not since the era of the Rosenbergs had the U.S. courts dealt such a lethal blow.

Faye Copeland, who was 69 at the time, and Ray Copeland, who was 76, were tried separately for the same crime, the murders of five transient men on their farm in Missouri. Faye's trial was first. She was found guilty and the jury recommended the death penalty. When Ray was sentenced to die in April 1991, the couple had been married over fifty years. They became the oldest couple on death row in the United States, and, quite possibly, the oldest couple ever sentenced to death.

The same year, 1991, Zein and Maria Isa, married for thirty years, were both given the death penalty for the murder of their 16-year-old daughter, a murder recorded on tape by the FBI, who had their apartment bugged.

Each wife was given the death penalty as an accomplice to her husband's crimes. Both husbands died while on death row, leaving their wives to awaiting execution.


THE DEATH PENALTY IN MISSOURI

The local sheriff, as elsewhere, handled Early executions in Missouri. Most were public hangings carried out in the county where a murder occurred. In September 1937, Missouri Governor, Lloyd Crow Stark, signed into law a bill calling for executions by lethal gas. The state officially took over capital

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