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Despite the paucity of research on the death penalty and gender discrimination, it is widely supposed that women murderers are chivalrously spared the death sentence. This supposition is fueled by the relatively small number of women who are condemned. This article argues that women are represented on contemporary U.S. death rows in numbers commensurate with the infrequency of female commission of those crimes which our society labels sufficiently reprehensible to merit capital punishment. Additionally, preliminary investigation suggests that death-sentenced women are more likely than death-sentenced men to have killed intimates, although the explanation for this disparity is not yet at hand. It is further argued, on the basis of a content analysis of state capital statutes, that there is a form of gender bias inimical to the interests of women in our capital punishment law: The death penalty is a dramatic symbol of the imputation of greater seriousness to economic and other predatory murder as compared with domestic murder.

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Law & Society Review



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Death Penalty



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