Women on death row typically knew victims

Daphne Wright, the 43-year-old Sioux Falls woman convicted last week of brutally murdering Darlene VanderGiesen, now must plead for her own life.

Minnehaha County jurors will start considering Tuesday whether to sentence her to life in prison or lethal injection. If they decide on the latter, Wright will join 49 other women on the nation’s death rows – one in federal prison; the others in state lockups – compared with about 3,500 men on death row, according to the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C.

Wright would become the first woman in South Dakota awaiting an execution, and the information center said it has no data that shows any deaf women – or men – currently on death row.

Wright is also unique in that she is black, deaf and homosexual – a multiple-minority status that her public defenders said raised concerns about her ability to get a fair trial with a hearing and predominantly white, heterosexual jury.

The prosecutors’ case hinged on the assertion that Wright was jealous of VanderGiesen, 42, of Rock Valley, Iowa, because she was friends with Wright’s former lover. That devolved into violent rage, prosecutors maintained, as Wright killed and then used a chain saw to cut up and dispose of her victim’s body.

Richard Dieter, director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said that the majority of women on death row are there because of similarly gruesome and violent acts. He also said that most of such women were convicted of killing a person they knew well or a person otherwise woven into their family or love lives.

“It is true, if you look at women on death row and the women that have been executed, they were related in some way to their victims,” Dieter said. “They killed somebody they knew – a husband, a lover, a child. You don’t find that as often with men,” who are more often involved in killings that spring from other crimes such as robberies and drug deals.

(( Source:  Argus Leader ))

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