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”)
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. 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
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 serious investigation?
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
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 than 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, the murderer…
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
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 innocent Trilby.]
12.) THE CONTRACT KILLING DEFENSE… DEFEND SELF BY HIRING SOMEONE ELSE
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 money.
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.