How many women are on death row in the US?

IN the last 100 years, more than 40 women have been executed in the United States.

But the death sentencing rate and the death row population remains very low for women in comparison to men.


Lisa Montgomery was the last woman to be executed in the United StatesCredit: AP

How many women are on death row in the US?

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, women are rarely sentenced to death in the United States and executions of women are even rarer.

As of April 1, 2021, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund said there were 51 women on death row across the United States.

In total, there are around 2,500 people on death row in America.

Actual execution of female offenders is quite rare.

As of December 31, 2020, there have only been 575 documented executions, with the first recorded in 1632.

The executions make up about 3.6 per cent of the total of 16,018 confirmed executions in the United States between 1608 and 2020.

Who was the last woman to be executed in the US?

Between 1973 and December 2020, 185 death sentences were given to female offenders, making up about 2 per cent of all death sentences.

And 17 of the women sentenced to death have been executed since 1976, using either electrocution or the lethal injection.

Lisa Montgomery

Lisa Montgomery was the last woman to be executed in the United States.

She was executed for murder on January 13, 2021, when she was the only female inmate on federal death row in the US.

She received a lethal injection at a prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, after a last-minute stay of execution was lifted by the US Supreme Court.

The 52-year-old strangled a pregnant woman before cutting out and kidnapping her baby in Missouri in 2004.

Her victim, 23-year-old Bobbie Jo Stinnett, bled to death but her baby was rescued and returned to her family.

Montgomery was the first female federal inmate to be executed by the US government in 67 years.

Her lawyer, Kelley Henry, said everyone involved in the execution “should feel shame”.

The lawyers had argued Montgomery was mentally ill and suffered serious abuse as a child.

“The government stopped at nothing in its zeal to kill this damaged and delusional woman,” she said in a statement.

“Lisa Montgomery’s execution was far from justice.”

Kelly Gissendaner

Kelly Gissendaner was executed on September 30, 2015, by the US state of Georgia. 

She was the first woman to be executed in the state since 1945.

Gissendaner, 28, had been convicted of orchestrating the murder of her husband, Douglas Gissendaner, 30.

After her conviction, and until her execution, Gissendaner was the only woman on death row in Georgia.

Gissendaner married Douglas for the first time on September 2, 1989. They had a baby together and Douglas joined the Army and the family were sent to Germany.

The couple divorced in 1993 before remarrying in May 1995 when the couple bought a house together in Auburn, Georgia.

On February 7, 1997, Gregory Bruce Owen hid near the couple’s home.

When Douglas arrived, Owen forced Douglas into his car at knifepoint and drove him to a wooded area in Gwinnett County near Harbins Park.

After striking Douglas in the head with a baton, Owen stabbed Douglas in the neck and back multiple times.

Gissendaner arrived at the scene moments later and she set fire to her husband’s car and hid his body in the woods.

Gissendaner was convicted of orchestrating her husband’s murder and sentenced to death in 1998.

Owen told a jury that Gissendaner had approached him about “a way to get rid of” her husband three months before the murder.

He said Gissendaner thought murder was the only way to get Douglas out of her life and still get the house and a payoff from his life insurance policy.

According to sworn affidavits by friends and family members, Gissendaner was abused by her stepfather and a number of other men during her childhood and teenage years.

Lisa Coleman

Lisa Coleman, from Texas, was executed on September 17, 2014.

The 38-year-old received a lethal injection about an hour after the US Supreme Court rejected a last-day appeal to spare her. 

Coleman had been convicted of the starvation and torture death of her girlfriend’s nine-year-old son, Davontae Williams, in 2004.

The boy’s body was found at the North Texas apartment Coleman shared with his mother, Marcella Williams.

Paramedics who found him dead said they were shocked to learn his age as he weight 36 pounds – about half that of a normal nine-year-old.

A pediatrician later would testify he had more than 250 distinct injuries, including burns from cigarettes or cigars and scars from ligatures, and a lack of food made him stop growing.

“There was not an inch on his body that not been bruised or scarred or injured,” Dixie Bersano, one of Coleman’s trial prosecutors, said.

Coleman’s lawyers said the boy’s death was an accident. 

Coleman became the ninth convicted killer and second woman to receive the lethal injection in Texas in 2014.

Suzanne Basso

Suzanne Basso was an American woman who was one of six co-defendants convicted in the August 1998 torture and murder of Louis “Buddy” Musso – a mentally disabled man who was killed for his life insurance money.

She was sentenced to death in October 1999 and was executed by lethal injection on February 5, 2014.

Before her execution, Basso had been held at the Mountain View Unit in Gatesville, Texas, where all of the state’s female death row inmates are imprisoned.

Those involved in the death of Musso included Basso, her son James O’Malley, Bernice Ahrens Miller and her children, Craig and Hope Ahrens, and Hope’s fiancé, Terence Singleton.

According to O’Malley, Musso was murdered at Miller’s apartment, where he was beaten and burned with cigarettes as he sat on a child’s play mat.

The sick group also used a wire brush on him, and then put him in a bathtub which was filled with kitchen cleaner and bleach.

They clothed Musso’s body before leaving it in Galena Park, Texas. A jogger found the body and called the cops.

The Galena Park Police Department ruled Musso’s death was due to “multiple blunt impact trauma”.

Basso became the 14th woman executed in the US since 1976.

Kimberly McCarthy

Kimberly McCarthy was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1997 murder of her neighbor, 71-year-old retired college professor Dorothy Booth.

On June 26, 2013 McCarthy was executed by the state of Texas by lethal injection, becoming the 500th person to be executed by the state.

Throughout her time in prison, McCarthy continued to proclaim her innocence, and insisted she was framed for murder.

Booth was killed at her home in Lancaster, Texas during a robbery.

After McCarthy arrived at Booth’s home on July 21, 1997, she stabbed Booth five times with a butcher knife, beat her with a candelabrum, and cut off her finger to steal her diamond wedding ring.

McCarthy stole Booth’s purse and Mercedes-Benz and pawned the diamond ring to buy crack cocaine.

She was charged with murder the following day.

Evidence showed McCarthy used Booth’s credit cards at a liquor store and was in possession of Booth’s driver’s license.

The victim’s DNA was also found on the murder weapon, which police recovered from McCarthy’s house.

McCarthy was convicted and sentenced to death on November 1, 2002.

Teresa Lewis

Teresa Lewis was the only woman on death row in Virginia prior to her execution. 

She was sentenced to death by lethal injection for the murders of her husband Julian Clifton Lewis Jr and stepson Charles J. Lewis in October 2002.

On September 23, 2010, Lewis became the first female inmate to die by lethal injection in the state of Virginia.

The state had last executed a woman in 1912.

Lewis, 41, wanted to profit from a $250,000 life insurance policy her stepson had taken out as a US Army reservist before his deployment to Iraq.

Lewis ordered two men to kill Julian and Charles while they were sleeping and Lewis pretended it was a robbery.

But Lewis was caught attempting to withdraw $50,000 from her dead husband’s account with a forged check.

Within a week, she confessed to the cops that she had offered money to have her husband killed.

Over 7,300 appeals for clemency were reportedly sent to Virginia governor Bob McDonnell following her death sentence.

But McDonnell decided not to stop Lewis’ execution.

Her last meal consisted of two fried chicken breasts, sweet peas with butter, a Dr Pepper and apple pie for dessert, and she spent her last hours praying and singing hymns.

Who is the youngest woman to be executed in the US?

Hannah Ocuish is believed to be the youngest woman executed in the United States.

The 12-year old Native American girl had an intellectual disability and she was hanged on December 20, 1786, in New London, Connecticut.

Ocuish was accused of killing six-year-old Eunice Bolles, the daughter of a wealthy farmer, after arguing with her over strawberries.

But the only evidence against her was her alleged confession to the investigators, even though she reportedly said she had seen four boys near the scene.

Are women on death row treated differently from men?

Female prisoners on death row appear to face more challenging conditions, such as solitary confinement and a lack of privacy.

In 2020, Lisa Montgomery’s lawyers raised concerns about the conditions she endured while imprisoned on death row.

The defense team said Montgomery had been living in a single cell under near-constant surveillance by a team of all-male prison guards, Prism reports.

A lawsuit was deprived of all of her belongings, including books, wedding ring, pictures of her children, and her clothes – including her underwear.

It said male defendants were not forced “to experience anything like Mrs. Montgomery’s current conditions of confinement”.

Female prisoners on death row appear to face more challenging conditions


Female prisoners on death row appear to face more challenging conditions


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here