The execution today of a Texas woman convicted in the gruesome murder of her 71-year-old neighbour, will mark the first time in three years that a female inmate has been put to death in the U.S.
Kimberly McCarthy, 51, was sentenced to death for the 1997 robbery, beating and fatal stabbing of retired college psychology professor Dorothy Booth. Investigators say Booth had agreed to give McCarthy a cup of sugar before she was attacked with a butcher knife at her home in Lancaster, about 15 miles south of Dallas.
It was among three slayings linked to McCarthy, a former nursing home therapist who'd been addicted to crack cocaine. Her lethal injection is scheduled for Tuesday evening.
McCarthy will be the 13th woman executed in the U.S. and the fourth in Texas, the nation's busiest death penalty state, since the Supreme Court allowed capital punishment to resume in 1976. In that same time period, more than 1,300 male inmates have been executed nationwide.
Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics compiled from 1980 through 2008 show women make up about 10 percent of homicide offenders nationwide. According to the NAACP Legal Defence Fund, 3,146 people were on the nation's death rows as of last Oct. 1, and only 63 - 2 percent were women.
In a final legal effort to spare her life, McCarthy's lawyers asked Gov. Rick Perry on Monday to use his executive authority to issue a 30-day reprieve. They also appealed to Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins to withdraw or modify the execution date, citing his support that Texas adopt a law allowing death-row inmates to appeal on racial grounds. McCarthy is black, while all but one of her 12 Dallas County jurors were white.
The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this month refused to review her case, and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles turned down a clemency request Friday.
Her lead attorney, Doug Parks, said drug use was McCarthy's downfall.
"I think when she's off dope she's probably a pretty good person," he said. "I believe now, as I did then, that in the penitentiary, Kim would be absolutely no danger to anyone."
McCarthy declined to speak with reporters as her execution date neared.
Evidence showed that McCarthy called Booth to borrow a cup of sugar. When she came to pick it up, McCarthy attacked Booth, including forcing the woman's hand to a chopping block so she could cut off her finger to remove her wedding ring.
"I remember the pain and agony that poor woman lived through before McCarthy delivered the final stab wounds," former Dallas County assistant district attorney Greg Davis recalled last week.
Blood DNA evidence also tied McCarthy to the December 1988 slayings of 81-year-old Maggie Harding and 85-year-old Jettie Lucas. Harding was stabbed and beaten with a meat tenderizer, while Lucas was beaten with both sides of a claw hammer and stabbed.
McCarthy, who denied any involvement in the attacks, was indicted but not tried for those slayings.
"She took the most defenceless, the most helpless people, people that trusted her, that she chose to attack," Davis said.
The Dallas County jury had already found McCarthy guilty of Booth's slaying when evidence during the punishment phase of her trial linked her to the other two slayings and convinced jurors to send her to death row.
Prosecutors also showed that McCarthy stole Booth's Mercedes and drove to Dallas, pawned the ring for $200 and then went to a crack house to buy cocaine. Evidence also showed she used Booth's credit cards at a liquor store and was carrying Booth's driver's license.
Booth's DNA was found on a 10-inch butcher knife recovered from McCarthy's home.
McCarthy said she blamed the crime on two drug dealers she identified only as "Kilo" and "J.C." There was no evidence to show either existed.
McCarthy was tried twice for Booth's slaying, most recently in 2002. Her first conviction in 1998 was thrown out three years later by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which ruled police violated her rights by using a statement she made to them after asking for a lawyer.
McCarthy is a former wife of Aaron Michaels, founder of the New Black Panther Party, and he testified on her behalf. They had separated before Booth's slaying.
McCarthy is among 10 women on death row in Texas, but the only one with an execution date.
In 1998, Karla Faye Tucker, 38, became the first woman executed in Texas since the Civil War for a robbery in Houston where two people were killed with a pickax. Two years later, a 62-year-old great-grandmother, Betty Lou Beets, received lethal injection for the slaying of her fifth husband in northeast Texas to collect insurance and pension benefits. And in 2004, Frances Newton, 40, was executed for the 1987 slayings of her husband and two children in Houston.