Friday, February 01, 2013


Dudley Sharp

Women are much less likely to commit all crimes, inclusive of murder, than are men. When combining murder, with the secondary aggravating circumstances, that create a death penalty offense, the disparity between men and women grows, tremendously.

As a general and dominant rule, capital offences are murders plus secondary aggravating circumstances, such as rape, robbery and/or burglary.

Men committed 476,937 rapes, robberies and burglaries, women 47,357 or a 10:1 ratio. From 1976-94, men committed 7 times as many murders as women, or 7:1. (BJS, Sourcebook ‘94, BJS ‘95, tb.4.9 and 3.22).

It may be, statistically, predictable that men are, by a 70:1 ratio (10:1 X 7:1), more likely to be on death row than are women. I multiplied the murder ratios with the secondary aggravating circumstance ratios to get the 70:1, This is not the proper way to come up with an accurate result.

However, it does provide a broad ballpark of what the ratio might be, if a detailed study was undertaken.

As of 12/31/10 (1): 3100 men and 58 women were on death row, or a ratio of 53:1, with woman making up 1.8% of the total

The  53:1 ratio indicates that women may be on death row in greater numbers than we would expect or similar to what we would predict.

In fact, the ratio of 70:1 means that we would predict that men would be 98.6% of those on death row, women 1.4%, or a lower percentage than women, currently, on death row.

 My analysis is much more proper than what Prof. Victor Streib does, which is to, wrongly, make the comparison within the context of all murders, when he should be using only death penalty eligible murders. Streib is the most noted expert on women and the death penalty and he is very aware of what murders should be used in this evaluation. He just doesn't use them.

Streib writes:

“while women comprise 13 percent of U.S. murder arrests, they account for only 2 percent of the death sentences, and make up only 1.5 percent of all persons presently on death row.” That 1.5% is nearly exact with the 1.4% I predict within that 70:1 ratio.

“only 2 percent?” 2% is higher than we would predict.

Streib wrongly uses “murder” arrests, which are not “capital” murders, but all murders. He is not even speaking of the proper crimes for a death sentence. He is aware of what he is doing.

The correct context is capital murders, not all murders.

I say that only about 10% of all murders are death penalty eligible. Some say 15-20%.

In other words, if women account for 13% of murder arrests, we would expect them to represent 1.3% of those on death row, nearly the exact percentage Streib states we should expect. Again, nearly exact with my 1.4% predicted with that 70:1 ratio.

When using capital murders, the number of women on death row are what we would expect, if not more than expected.

Currently, women make up 1.8% of those on death row, more that what we might predict.

That 70:1 ratio is looking pretty close, maybe just as it should.

Currently, there are about 58 women on death row, certainly within any reasonable margin of error, particularly given any random chance disparity in sentencing, as well as the crucial differences within and between all cases.

Streib was wrong to use all murders. I was correct to look at capital murders.

Properly evaluating capital murders, it turns out that the 1.3%-2% of Streib is not only where the death row numbers should be, they also match up surprisingly well with my rough 70:1 ratio and the 53:1 ratio which we have, today.


8,218 men were sent to death row since 1973, with 1222 executed or 15% (1). 174 women were sent to death row since 1973, with 12 executed or 7% (1).

This disparity could be the result of time on death row and/or other appellate issues. Each case would have to be reviewed, individually.

1) Capital Punishment, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2011

Victim's Voices - These are the murder victims