Women Who Kill Too Much
and the Courts That Free Them:
The Twelve 'Female-Only' Defenses
Excerpted from "The Myth of Male Power"
1. THE INNOCENT WOMAN DEFENSE
I am starting with the innocent woman defense because it underlies all twelve
defenses. At first I had called this the "Female Credibility Principle" because
of the tendency to see women as more credible than men because of being thought
more innocent. However, even when women admitted making false allegations that
they were raped or that their husbands abused them, for example, their admission
that they lied was often NOT believed. Therefore the belief in the innocent woman
ran even deeper than the tendency to believe women.
2. THE PMS DEFENSE ("MY BODY, NO CHOICE")
feminists were saying that PMS was the reason a woman
who deliberately killed a man should go free
In 1970, when Dr. Edgar Berman said women's hormones during menstruation and
menopause could have a detrimental influence on women's decision making,
feminists were outraged. He was soon served up as the quintessential example of
medical male chauvinism. But by the 1980s, some feminists were saying that PMS
was the reason a woman who deliberately killed a man should go free. In England,
the PMS defense freed Christine English after confessed to killing her boyfriend
by deliberately ramming him into a utility pole with her car; and after killing
a co-worker, Sandie Smith was put on probation - with one condition: she must
report monthly for injections of progesterone to control symptoms of PMS. By the
1990s, the PMS defense paved the way for other hormonal defenses.
Sheryl Lynn Massip could place her 6 month old son under a car, run over him
repeatedly, and then, uncertain he was dead, do it again, then claim postpartum
depression and be given outpatient medical help. No feminist protested.
3. THE HUSBAND DEFENSE
The film "I Love You to Death" was based on a true story of a woman who tried
to kill her husband when she discovered he had been unfaithful. She and her mom
tried to poison him, then hired mugger to beat him and shoot him through the
head. A fluke led to their being caught and sent to jail. Miraculously, the
husband survived. The husband's first response? Soon after he recovered he
informed authorities that he would not press charges. His second response? He
defended his wife's attempts to kill him. He felt so guilty being sexually
unfaithful that he thanked his wife! He then re-proposed to her. She verbally
abused him, then accepted.
4. THE "BATTERED WOMAN SYNDROME" DEFENSE, AKA LEARNED HELPLESSNESS
Until 1982, anyone who called premeditated murder self-defense
would have been laughed out of court.
Until 1982, anyone who called premeditated murder self-defense would have
been laughed out of court. But in 1982, Lenore Walker won the first legal
victory for her women-only theory of learned helplessness, which suggests that a
woman whose husband or boyfriend batters her becomes fearful for her life and
helplessness to leave him so if she kills him, it is really self-defense - even
if she has premeditated his murder. The woman is said to be a victim of the
Battered Woman Syndrome. Is it possible a woman could kill, let's say, for
insurance money? Lenore Walker says no: she claims, "Women don't kill men unless
they've been pushed to a point of desperation." Ironically feminists had often
said, "There's never an excuse for violence against a woman." Now they were
saying, "But there's always an excuse for violence against a man... if a woman
does it." That sexism is now called the law in 15 states.
5.) "THE DEPRESSED MOTHER" DEFENSE: BABY BLUES AND TERRIBLE TWOS
Remember Sheryl Lynn Massip, a mother in her mid-twenties who murdered he
6-month old son by crushing its head under the wheel of the family car? Massip
systematically covered up the murder until she was discovered. Then she
testified that she suffered from post-partum depression - or "baby blues." Her
sentence?? Treatment. Mothers do get the baby blues. As do dads. Were the
husband to kill his baby, as Sheryl Lynn did, it is unlikely that we would just
treat him for baby blues or Save the Marriage Syndrome. Why does her version of
baby blues allow her to receive treatment for child murder, when he would
receive life in prison for child murder, with or without baby blues?
The Terrible Twos
She buried the battered baby in a trash bin.
Josephine Mesa beat her 2-year-old son to death with the wooden handle of a
toilet plunger. She buried the battered baby in a trash bin. When scavengers
found the baby outside her Oceanside, California apartment, she denied she new
him. When the evidence became overwhelming, she confessed. The excuse? She was
depressed. The child was going through terrible twos. The punishment?
Counseling, probation and anti-depressants. She never spent a day behind bars.
6. THE "MOTHERS DON'T KILL" DEFENSE
ITEM. Illinois. Paula Sims reported that her first daughter, Loralei, was
abducted by a masked gunman. In fact she murdered Loralei. But she got away with
it. So when her next daughter, Heather Lee, disappointed her, she suffocated
her, threw her in the trash barrel, and said another masked gunman had abducted
her daughter. It wasn't until the second "masked gunman" abduction that a
serious search was conducted. Only the serious search led to evidence. Might
Heather Lee be alive today if mothers did not have a special immunity from
7. THE "CHILDREN NEED THEIR MOTHER" DEFENSE
ITEM. Colorado. Lory Foster's husband had returned from Vietnam and was going
through mood-swings both from post traumatic stress syndrome and diabetes. They
had gotten into a fight and he had abused her. So she killed him. Yet, even the
prosecutor did not ask for a jail term. Why not? So Lory could care for the
children... Lory was given counseling and vocational training at state
expense.The most frequent justification for freeing mothers who kill their
children is that their children need them. Moreover, if mothers were freed
because "children are the first priority," then fathers would be freed just as
often. But they are not. Even when no mother is available.
8. THE "BLAME THE FATHER, UNDERSTAND THE MOTHER" DEFENSE
No one saw the sexism.
ITEM. Ramiro Rodriguez was driving back from the supermarket. His daughter
was sitting on his wife's lap. As Ramiro made a left turn, a van crashed into
the car and his daughter was killed. Ramiro was charged with homicide. The
reason? His daughter was not placed in a safety seat. Ramiro explained that his
daughter was sick and wanted to be held so HIS WIFE DECIDED to hold her. Yet
only Ramiro was charged. The mother was charged with nothing. Ramiro was
eventually acquitted after protests over the racism. No one saw the sexism.
9. THE "MY CHILD, MY RIGHT TO ABUSE IT" DEFENSE
A million crack-addicted children since 1987, but only sixty of the mothers
have faced criminal charges. One was convicted. That conviction was reversed by
the Michigan Supreme Court. 3 percent of infants in Washington D.C. die from
cocaine addiction, but no mothers go to prison. The right to choose means the
right to kill - not a fetus but a child. Should the mother who addicts her child
to crack have any more rights another child abuser or drug dealer. How can we
give a normal drug dealer a life sentence but claim that a mother that deals
drugs to her own child should not so much as stand trial? If we feel compassion
for the circumstances that drove her to drugs, where is our compassion for the
circumstances that drove the drug dealer to drugs, the child abuser to abuse,
10. THE PLEA BARGAIN DEFENSE
Once a woman is seen as more innocent, her testimony is more valued, which
leads to prosecutors offering the woman a plea bargain in crimes committed
jointly by a woman and a man. And if a District Attorney is up for reelection,
the Chivalry Factor allows him to look like a hero when his office prosecutes a
man or a bully if he should put a woman behind bars.
11. THE SVENGALI DEFENSE
The federal judge gave her two years because she told
the judge that she was in love with her hairdresser
A beautiful woman dubbed "The Miss America Bandit" conducted an armed robbery
of a bank. Federal Sentencing guidelines called for a minimum of four and a half
to five years in federal prison. The federal judge gave her two years because
she told the judge that she was in love with her hairdresser and he had wanted
her to rob the bank. The judge concluded, "Men have always exercised malevolent
influence over women, and women seem to be soft-touches for it, particularly if
sex is involved....It seems to me the Svengali-Trilby relationship is the
motivating force behind this lady....the main thing is sex." [Svengali is a
fictional character said to have hypnotic qualities of persuasion over the
THE CONTRACT KILLING DEFENSE... DEFEND SELF BY HIRING SOMEONE ELSE
the targeted man usually had an insurance policy
significantly larger than the man's next few years income
When I did the first review of my files in preparation for this section on
contract killing, I was struck by some fascinating patterns. First, all of these
women hired boys or men. Second, their targets were usually husbands,
ex-husbands, or fathers - men they had once loved. Third, the targeted man
usually had an insurance policy significantly larger than the man's next few
years income. Fourth, the women often were never serious suspects until some
coincidence exposed their plot. Fifth, the women usually chose one of three
methods by which to kill: she (1) persuaded her boyfriend to do the killing (in
reverse Svengali style); (2) hired some young boys from a disadvantaged
background to do it for a small amount of money; or (3) hired a professional
killer, thus usually using the money her husband earned to kill her husband.
Dixie Dyson tucked in her husband for his last night's sleep. She had arranged
to have a lifelong friend and a boyfriend pretend to "break and enter,", then
rape her, kill her husband, then "escape." She would collect the insurance
At the last moment, the lifelong friend backed out, but the boyfriend and
Dixie managed to kill Dixie's husband after 27 stabbings. They were caught.
Dixie "cut a deal" to reduce her sentence by reporting the boyfriend and his
friend. The friend who backed out got 25 years for conspiracy.
Deborah Ann Werner was due one third of her dad's estate. She asked her
daughter to find some boys to murder him by plunging a knife through his neck.
Diana Bogadanoff hired two young men to kill her husband on an isolated
nudist beach, while she watched. After he was shot through the head, she
reported the killers but produced no motive for the murder - no money was stolen
and she was not sexually molested. Diana did not become a suspect until an
anonymous caller contacted a nationwide crime hotline. The caller coincidentally
heard about the murder on the radio and remembered a friend describing just such
a murder he had refused to do... on an isolated nudist beach while a woman named
Diana watched. Without this tip, Diana would never have become even a suspect.
HOW INDIVIDUAL WOMEN ARE GIVEN MORE POWER TO KILL THAN THE ENTIRE U.S.
the twelve female-only defenses allow almost any woman
to take it upon herself to "exercise the death penalty."
Taken together, the twelve female-only defenses allow almost any woman to
take it upon herself to "exercise the death penalty." The government is not
allowed to take it upon itself to kill someone first and declare him or her an
abuser later - only a woman can do that to a man.
DO MEN KILL WOMEN MORE THAN WOMEN KILL MEN?
THE SIX BLINDERS
1. A woman is more likely to poison a man than shoot him, and poisoning is
often recorded as a heart attack or accident. [This will skew the figures]
2. Contract killing is also less detectable because it is premeditated and
often hired out to a professional. When it is discovered the Department of
Justice registers it as a "multiple offender killing" - it never gets recorded
as a woman killing a man. [This will skew the figures]
3. The money factor. Women who murder husbands or boyfriends usually come
from middle class backgrounds The money allows the best lawyers, more
acquittals, therefore fewer female murderers to become Justice Department
4. and 5. The Chivalry Factor, the Innocent Woman Factor prevent many women
from becoming serious suspects to begin with.
6. The Plea Bargain Defense sometimes leads to the dismissal of charges.
When the six blinders are combined, we can see how we have consciously and
unconsciously kept ourselves blind to women who murder men. A distortion of
statistics is created by the Six Blinders. But a distortion of perception is
created by the media's tendency to make it international news when men murder
women (the University of Montreal Murderer, the Hillside and Boston stranglers)
and, unless the man is famous, to make it local news when a woman murders only a
In brief, it is impossible to know the degree to which the sexes kill each
other. The only thing we know for certain is that both sexes kill more men than
they kill women.