The latest letter from Shonda Johnson was very typical of her. She talked more about the issues going on in my life than in her own. She is a very kind woman and this has always been my experience with her. She and I have been writing since 2002 and she has never failed to be honest, open and genuinely caring.
Some very savvy and passionate law students have taken on her case and relentlessly pursued a second chance. She well deserves it as there are many, many holes in her case. This is another case where they have given a woman who was not even at the scene of the crime the death penalty. There is more than a reasonable doubt that she had anything to do with the crimes. 
Shonda may very well be free one day. Her letters always mention what she dreams of doing with her sons when she is released and how she will go on to mentor other death row women and the public on capital punishment. She is very adamant that this time she has spent away from her family will not go to waste but and be a stumbling block for the rest of her life but instead be a stepping stone on her path to educate others.
I am quite proud of her.   


Guest Post from Softheart at www.prisontalk.com forums.

You may want to write to one of the 50 women on death row in the USA,
because: many have been abused sexually, physically, and mentally all their lives. Added to
this is the often brutal, abusive, degrading, and inhuman treatment by prison guards and officials. 
A third of the women surveyed said that corrections officers watch them when they use the
toilet, shower or change clothes. Many women on death row live in almost complete isolation, which puts them at a serious risk of developing mental illness, or exacerbating existing mental
In Florida,Sunny Jacobs who was on death row there for 18 years before being exonerated and released, lost the use of her vocal cords for some time because of the complete isolation
of her imprisonment. (Unfortunately, her boy friend who was also exonerated had already been
executed). A guard who felt sorry for her gave her some money so she could get a bus away from the prison when she was released. Sunny was never indemnified by the State of Florida for her false inhuman imprisonment and near execution. 

Prison is a very lonely place. You must always be on guard and very careful in trusting anyone. May of these women, as it is for many prisoners, have lost contact with family or friends. Women on Death Row also must deal with problems similar to those men on death row contend
with, such as ineffective and inadequate defense counsel; misconduct by prosecutors or the police; struggles with drug and alcohol addictions; and having their co-defendant receive a reduced non-death sentence for
testifying against them.
Oregon governor blocks executions for rest of term - CNN.com:

Wow, just wow.
I have so much respect for Oregon's Gov. He has stopped all executions during the remainder of his term saying

"It is time for Oregon to consider a different approach. I refuse to be a part of this compromised and inequitable system any longer; and I will not allow further executions while I am governor,"

This article from CNN details his decision.


Upcoming Texas Female Executions

2012 may be the final year for many of Texas's death row women. The cases of several of them are near the final review. Suzanne Margaret Basso, Linda Carty and Cathy Lynn Henderson may all draw their last breath next year.
 Suzanne Basso is convicted of murdering an elderly, handicapped man. She met him at a church carnival and eventually got him moved in with her. She spent his social security checks and apparently abused him. Evidence shows a severe, extended beating and baths in Pine-Sol and bleach.
She is described as an odd woman with a wild imagination. I have never written to her. She has been on death row since 1995. The Texas Supreme Court ruled not to review her appeals any further in 2010 and the D.A. announced intentions of seeking an execution date.
Linda Carty's case is one of international reach. She is a British citizen convicted of killing a woman by tying a plastic bag around her head and putting her in a car trunk.
The British government filed an amicus curiae brief as a friend of the Court however, on May 3, 2010 the Court refused to hear the appeal. The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles has the option to recommend clemency to the Governor of Texas. However, such recommendations are rare. She has been on death row since 2002.
Cathy Henderson has had near brushes with the executioner already. She is known as the babysitter killer for her murder of a three month old boy she was babysitting.
In 2007 her execution was delayed to allow time for appeals. Because of her diminished mental capacities her case is a questionable one. She has been on death row since 1995.
Cathy Henderson
Linda carty
Suzanne Basso


Headed to the Row:
In June, 2009, Walker was accused of killing her aunt and cousin: 85-year-old Lillian Graves and 65-year-old daughter, Agnes Stewart. The pair were found stabbed to death in their Peach County home.
Walker, age 54, allegedly stole her aunt's Jeep Cherokee and went through the women's purses to steal cash, credit cards and prescription drugs.
Prosecutors say they plan to ask for the death penalty against her.
Her lawyers are asking that she be released because her rights were violated. She was indicted in August 2009, and three months later, her attorney filed a request for a speedy trial. State law says that if two full court sessions are completed after that request, the suspect must be released.


Long Island Woman Stabs Boyfriend to Death in Argument: Police | NBC New York: "A Long Island woman was arrested early Sunday morning, accused of stabbing her boyfriend to death.

Police in Medford were called to 643 Granny Road at about 2:30 a.m., and found Melvin Garcia, 48, with stab wounds. Garcia was apparently stabbed by his grilfriend, Cynthia Dean, during an argument.

Garcia was taken to Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center in East Patchogue, where he was pronounced dead.

Dean, 32, was arrested and charged with first-degree manslaughter. She is expected to be arraigned Monday at First District Court in Central Islip."

'via Blog this'


The ten most notorious female criminals - News - People - The Independent

There's a really cool slide show on that site. Some of the women I was familiar with but some I didn't know about, like the female pirate Anne Bonney.


Most Infamous Female Killers

It feels weird, in a way, to deal with female serial killers. The type of crime spree that inspires mass murder usually feels like the work of a deranged man, and a majority of the most notorious serial killers of the 20th century have been male: Ted Bundy, Zodiac, John Wayne Gacy. Statistically speaking, serial killers are usually white men in their 20s or 30s who come from lower- or middle-class backgrounds. Yet there are outliers, and it’s impossible to ignore the fact that more than a few women have defied those stats and gone on horrific killing streaks. Their crimes bring with them an added level of shock: surely, people think, a woman couldn’t have done this. But they did, and they have, and they will. These are the most infamous female serial killers:
  1. Lavinia Fisher: Lavinia Fisher has the dubious distinction of being the first female serial killer in the United States, or at least the first one to grip to the public consciousness and earn the title. Now-a-days, however, there has been information disclosed from research into the case that she may not have killed anyone and maybe have been just a petty robber. Her killings were so long ago, though — she was born c. 1792 and died in 1820 — that records about her youth and origin are lost. She and her husband owned and operated a hotel in Charleston, South Carolina, in the early 19th century, and they gained notoriety when men started disappearing. (Rumors about their methods have grown with time, tossing in details like trap doors and elaborate murders, but the most likely truth is that she would poison male guests, her husband would return later in the night to finish them off, and they’d keep whatever cash or goods the guest had.) She and her husband were hanged, though reports were that she jumped from the gallows in a technical suicide rather than let the executioner kill her. An appropriately gruesome end.
  2. Aileen Wuornos: It would be impossible to talk about female serial killers without discussing Aileen Wuornos (pictured above), a Florida-based killer and prostitute who murdered seven johns in 1989-1990 and whose actions were later chronicled in documentaries and feature films. She had a phenomenally rotten childhood: she was allegedly beaten and raped, and she conceived at 13 after a stranger assaulted her, and she subsequently gave birth and had the baby placed up for adoption. She started turning tricks at 15, when she was kicked out of her house. Her tragic life pretty much spiraled after that. After small crimes and arrests, she kept working the roads as a prostitute, killing her first john, 51-year-old Richard Mallory, in November 1989 in what she would later claim was self-defense. She killed several more men, and she was eventually caught after getting in a minor accident while driving one of her victim’s cars. She was executed in October 2002.
  3. Belle Gunness: Belle Gunness was a strong and brutal woman who tallied more than 40 victims in her day. Born in Norway in 1859, she emigrated to the U.S. and married and settled in Chicago. Her husband and some of her children died under sad and mysterious circumstances, and when she began dating again, her suitors — wealthy men drawn in by her charms — started disappearing. She had a hired hand named Ray Lamphere who did some dirty work for her, though she eventually turned him out and even managed to turn authorities onto him as a possible threat. Despite her habit of killing men, she managed to have the final laugh. In April 1908, her home went up in flames, and investigators found the bodies of her children next to a headless corpse under the wreckage. However, the dimensions of the headless body didn’t match Gunness’ actual figure, and she was declared missing. Authorities started digging up her land and turning up plenty of corpses.
  4. Jane Toppan: In 1901-02, after she was in custody, Jane Toppan confessed to dozens of murders. She was extremely dangerous and more than a little unhinged: she would spend the rest of her life at Taunton State Hospital, dying in 1938 at the age of 81. Toppan grew up in an orphanage and then as a servant. Her killing spree started in 1885, when she was training to be a nurse. She took to experimenting with patients, using different combinations of medicines and chemicals to tweak their nervous systems and slide them between life and death. She also later admitted to being aroused by the process of killing. Toppan got away with her deeds for a while, especially when she entered private practice, after which she started racking up more victims by killing her landlords and later her foster sister. After killing an elderly man named Alden Davis and two of his daughters, the Davis family requested a toxicology investigation, which turned up traces of the poison Toppan had used. She was
    1. eventually charged with multiple murders, but she was found not guilty and declared insane.
    2. Velma Barfield: Velma Barfield has another claim to infamy besides being a serial killer: she was the first woman to be executed in the U.S. after the death penalty was reinstituted in 1977. She was put to death for the murder of Stuart Taylor, her boyfriend; she’d been using his checking account to forge checks and buy prescription pills, and she poisoned his beer to knock him off, though she played at nursing him back to health for a few days. She was caught when an autopsy turned up traces of arsenic. She also confessed to killing her mother in the same manner. All told, she killed five people, but she spent so much time on death row that she found religion and became a devout Christian. Weird but true.
    3. Amelia Dyer: In addition to having what is possibly the creepiest photo on Wikipedia, Amelia Dyer’s also infamous for killing hundreds of victims. That’s right, hundreds. The truly gruesome part is that her victims were infants. Dyer, born in England in 1838, earned her money in the baby farming system, taking in children whose mothers couldn’t afford to feed or raise them and nursing them in exchange for a fee. Babies were killed through neglect and starvation, though many were murdered more quickly in order to allow for greater turnover and higher profits. Dyer was trafficking in pure evil. She even dodged the bullet once after investigators started checking out the number of deaths on her watch; she only did time for neglect. She was eventually found out by police, and though she was only convicted of one murder, it was clear from the pattern of disappearances and the evidence in her home that she’d been doing this for years.
    4. Nannie Doss: Nannie Doss was a lethal wife: all told, she murdered four husbands and a boatload of other relatives, including her sisters, two of her kids, and her own mother. She killed her second husband by poisoning his whiskey the day after he raped her. After her third husband died, his house mysteriously burned down, and the insurance money went to Doss. Her fourth marriage was a two-fer: she murdered her mother when the elderly woman came to live with her, and then she killed her husband a few months later. It wasn’t until her fifth and final husband died that Doss was caught. After he was briefly hospitalized for a digestive tract issue, Doss poisoned him to collect the life insurance. The man’s sudden death after being released tipped the doctors off to foul play, and sure enough, they found arsenic in the man’s body. Doss confessed to the raft of murders but, because she was a woman, wasn’t put to death. She died in prison in 1965, at age 59.
    5. Bertha Gifford: Bertha Gifford’s story is another one built on poison and infidelity. Born around 1876, Gifford lived in Misssouri and garnered a reputation for her desire to care for sick friends and family, many of whom subsequently died. Enough of them died before their time to arouse suspicion, and Gifford was eventually arrested for murder. An exhumation of several bodies led to the discovery of arsenic in the corpses, and Gifford’s game was over. Like all serial killers, regardless of gender, Gifford was deliberate and wide-ranging, and she murdered almost two dozen people. She was found not guilty thanks to an insanity plea, and she spent the rest of her life in a mental hospital.
    6. Jeanne Weber: Although she only lived to 36 — and she died by her own hand in prison — Jeanne Weber was a notorious killer at the turn of the 20th century. She started her killing spree by murdering her sister’s children, killing an 18-month-old girl and her 2-year-old sister in rapid succession. Doctors declared the deaths accidental. She was also to play on her gender and the public’s willingness to forgive a distraught woman for heinous crimes: although she was found trying to choke her nephew, she was acquitted when the defense said she was grief-stricken over the death of her own child. (A death she actually caused.) She was eventually charged with murder and sentenced to imprisonment in an asylum in 1908. Two years later, she hanged herself in her cell. No one was ever able to diagnose the mix of hate and insanity that had plagued her.
    7. Dorothea Puente: The cold and calculating manner with which Sacramento’s Dorothea Puente dispatched her victims is enough to turn anyone’s stomach. After several marriages, Puente started committing fraud in the 1960s by dating older men and cashing their benefit checks. She did time for the deed, but it didn’t dissuade her at all. In the 1980s, Puente ran a boarding house for the elderly and collected their mail, after which she would cash the checks of her tenants and pay them out in a smaller stipend. Tenants started dying and disappearing, as well; in fall 1985, Puente had a handyman dump a box she said was filled with junk near a river; when a fisherman reported the curious item, cops opened it up and found the remains of an old man. Another missing tenant led police to investigate Puente’s facility. The short version: she’d been killing tenants and burying them out back. Puente was sentenced to life in prison, and she always maintained that her tenants had died of natural causes. (Despite the fact that there’s nothing natural about burying them in a yard.) She died in March 2011 at age 82.


Why the Death Penalty is Stupid


From: http://www.progress.org/death05.htm

COST OF THE DEATH PENALTY - Various state governments estimate that a single death penalty case, from the point of arrest to execution, ranges from $1 million to $3 million, and could be as high as $7 million per case. However, cases resulting in life imprisonment average approximately $500,000, including the cost of incarceration.

DETERRENCE - Comprehensive studies and the vast preponderance of evidence show that capital punishment does not deter crime and that the death penalty is no more effective than life imprisonment in deterring murder.

FAIRNESS AND CONSISTENCY - In murder cases, there is substantial evidence to indicate that the courts have been arbitrary, contradictory, and unfair in the way in which some people have been sentenced to prison and others to death, which has led the American Bar Association, and 287 organizations, calling for a moratorium on the death penalty.

INNOCENCE AND THE INEVITABILITY OF ERROR - Although sources indicate that 23 innocent people have been executed, these have not been well documented. What is well documented is that since 1970, 76 people have been released from death row because of clear evidence of their innocence.

VIOLENCE AND THE BARBARITY OF THE EXECUTION - In this country, two states permit the use of a firing squad, hanging is an option in four states, and in one state there is proposed legislation to replace the state’s electric chair with the guillotine. Regarding lethal injection, it was observed by the U.S. Court of Appeals that there is substantial and uncontroverted evidence that death by lethal injection poses a serious risk of cruel, protracted death.

RETRIBUTION - Although we rightly anguish over the brutality to the victims, and the lasting effect on the families of the victims, and making the punishment fit the crime; it seems clear that this principle can still be satisfied through alternatives, such as life imprisonment without any possibility of parole.

EFFECT ON VICTIMS’ FAMILIES AND CLOSURE - Although true closure is never really possible for the families, studies have shown that the continual process of appeals necessary to insure due process, along with the returning to court for many years, force families to confront the gruesome details of the crime many times over, making it impossible to get on with their lives as difficult as that is. The question is whether the victims’ needs are met effectively by killing someone else and causing another family grief and pain as well as adding to the cycle of violence.

COUNTRIES THAT IMPOSE THE DEATH PENALTY - The United States now joins such countries as Iraq, China, and Iran in imposing the death penalty, and is one of only six count ries in the world, such as Yeman and Iran, that executes juvenile offenders. The UN Commission on Human Rights voted overwhelmingly to urge member countries to move toward abolition of it.

PUBLIC OPINION AND POLLING DATA - According to USA TODAY (2/23/99), this month’s Gallup Poll shows support for the death penalty at 71%, a 13 year low, however, in addition according to Gallup, an all time high of 38% of Americans now favor life without parole as a substitute for the death penalty. Similar polls show the latter figure as high as 49%.

ELECTIONS AND THE DEATH PENALTY - There is a perception that voting for the death penalty is a sure way not to be re-elected. The evidence is to the contrary. In the last two elections in Massachusetts, no incumbents who opposed the death penalty were defeated by incumbents who supported the death penalty.

MENTORING - Throughout the federal and state correctional institutions, individuals, including inmates removed from death row to the general population, are serving effectively as mentors to other inmates, particularly when the individual has had some form of spiritual regeneration. This positive use of inmates, allowed to live by a life imprisonment sentence, has been praised by corrections officials for helping younger men and women to rehabilitate themselves, particularly if educational, drug treatment, moral and spiritual programs are offered at the institution.

MORAL AND BIBLICAL - In terms of the authority of the Bible, proponents of capital punishment can take certain verses or words from the Bible, particularly from the Old Testament, to support their position. Similarly, opponents of the death penalty can take certain verses or words from the Bible, particularly from the New Testament, to support their position. In my own research and study of the biblical interpretation of the death penalty, I believe that the matter stands on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. Through the actions, words, and very person of Jesus, each of us is given the possibility of knowing the truth concerning the value of life.

CONSISTENT ETHIC OF LIFE - All life - every life is like a "seamless garment." James Megivern is his book The Death Penalty sums it up best. "Life is the issue, and deliberately destroying human life, all human life, any human life is wrong period. Punishment, Yes, Death, No...Every person has universal, inviolable, inalienable rights. Basic to all is the Right to Life.

CONCLUSION - After reviewing all the above factors, it seems clear that death as a penalty fails every conceivable test of rational public policy. Even if one disagrees with one or more of these factors, the overwhelming evidence is that it is lacking in credibility as a rational response. Therefore, we recommend a moratorium on executions in the 38 states, and the federal government, until rational alternatives are found that are acceptable to the public. One alternative, which is gaining considerable public acceptance, is to impose life imprisonment without any possibility of parole. This alternative will not permit the individual to walk the streets again; however they will be given the time for regeneration of their minds and spirits in order to help other inmates, and to give them hope that their lives can be beneficial to others.


This summary is extracted from a larger research document which provides the reader with significant detail on the reasons for a moratorium. For further information, contact the writer, Jack Callahan by E-mail at Barbjack5@aol.com, or through the Interfaith Coalition at 118 East Main Street, Moorestown, New Jersey 08057.(2/14/99)


Chelsea Richardson Removed from Death Row

Chelsea will be resentenced to life within the next 30 – 45 days. I do write to Chelsea and have spoken with her mother. It has always been a bone of contention among the family that Chelsea was the only one of all the kids involved to get a death sentence.

It made no real sense in the first place since there was the least amount of physical evidence that pointed to her. Some evidence was even held from the trial proceedings and that, in fact, is why she will receive a new sentencing hearing.

According to Chelsea and her family, Stephanie Toledano was the mastermind of the murders of Chelsea’s boyfriends parents. She had been staying with Chelsea, her mom and her brother because she was having trouble at home.

The fact that certain evidence was withheld from the trial has caused may remarks about misconduct by prosecutors in the case. Sadly this is seen so, so often. A prosecutor wants to win so bad they misrepresent the case or sometimes just wants the case solved so bad they lie to themselves.

On Wednesday, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals sent the case back to Tarrant County for a new sentencing hearing, noting, "The state, through its prosecutor Mike Parrish, failed to reveal
Brady material regarding an examination of its key witness by a psychologist, which affected
the punishment phase of her trial."

Florida’s Margaret Allen

Margaret Allen is the latest woman in Florida to be sentenced to death. She killed her maid after accusing her of stealing from her.

She does have a diminished mental capacity but the terms of the murder were quite ghastly including strangulation and stabbing. because of her own mental issues, Margaret may not know what the outcomes of her actions are.

Why didn't she have someone to look after her or why wasn't she institutionalized? Should we kill people who have been so severely abused themselves that they do not understand their own actions? Why didn't local authorities pay attention to this insane person before she did something like this instead of waiting around for it to happen?