Death Row Women: Murder, Justice, and the New York Press

Overview

During the 20th century, only six women were legally executed by the State of New York at Sing Sing Prison. In each case, the condemned faced a process of demonization and public humiliation that was orchestrated by a powerful and unforgiving media. When compared to the media treatment of men who went to the electric chair for similar offenses, the press coverage of female killers was ferocious and unrelenting. Granite woman, black-eyed Borgia, roadhouse tramp, sex-mad, and lousy prostitute are just some of the ...

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Overview

During the 20th century, only six women were legally executed by the State of New York at Sing Sing Prison. In each case, the condemned faced a process of demonization and public humiliation that was orchestrated by a powerful and unforgiving media. When compared to the media treatment of men who went to the electric chair for similar offenses, the press coverage of female killers was ferocious and unrelenting. Granite woman, black-eyed Borgia, roadhouse tramp, sex-mad, and lousy prostitute are just some of the terms used by newspapers to describe these women. Unlike their male counterparts, females endured a campaign of expulsion and disgrace before they were put to death. Not since the 1950s has New York put another woman to death.

Gado chronicles the crimes, the times, and the media attention surrounding these cases. The tales of these death row women shed light on the death penalty as it applies to women and the role of the media in both the trials and executions of these convicts. In these cases, the press affected the prosecutions, the judgements, and the decisions of authorities along the way. Contemporary headlines of the era are revealing in their blatant bias and leave little doubt of their purpose. Using family letters, prison correspondence, photographs, court transcripts, and last- minute pleas for mercy, Gado paints a fuller picture of these cases and the times.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Using a small but rich data set to write about an obscure research topic, former New York police detective and federal DEA agent Gado provides insight into contemporary practices associated with punishment, media, and the way social institutions interact to justify capital punishment. He discusses in detail the stories of six women executed in New York's Sing Sing prison. Media accounts from the era in which these women were accused, tried, and eventually executed lead readers to question the media's true intent. Referring to headlines, selective facts, colorful nicknames, and wild exaggerations, Gado describes how these women, their crimes, and the state response were socially constructed. Media contributions offered in a competitive environment are contrasted with police reports, court transcripts, prison files, letters written by the condemned, photographs, and eyewitness accounts. Although Gado gives preference to this evidence, the media's role cannot be discounted. He raises gender issues when contrasting stories about the demonization of these women with the routine coverage of condemned men. Without providing answers, Gado's text highlights moral inconsistencies that many continue to confront when examining capital punishment. Highly recommended. General, undergraduate, and graduate collections"

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Choice

"Mark Gado shows that the media's obsession with women who murder has a long history. A New York police detective for twenty-five years and a DEA agent from 1999 to 2001, as well as the author of two other books, he writes about crime and the criminal justice system for truTV (previously Court TV) Crime Library….The book is an enjoyable read, and the chapters on the individual cases are particularly well constructed. Gado demonstrates that historical tales can be interesting when there is an abundance of detail."

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Journalism History

"…the rich source material Gado compiles makes Death Row Women a compelling read and a useful tool in the undergraduate classroom."

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Journal of Social History

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Product Details

Meet the Author

MARK GADO was a police detective in New York for over twenty-five years. His investigative work included murder, death cases, felony assaults, and sexual offenses, as well as hundreds of appearances in a courtroom setting. He was a federal agent with the D.E.A. from 1999-2001 and currently writes on criminal justice issues and true crime for Court TV's Crime Library. He is the author of Killer Priest (Praeger, 2006) and a contributor to Famous American Crimes and Trials (Praeger, 2005).

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Table of Contents

Series Foreword     ix
Preface     xiii
Acknowledgments     xvii
Introduction: Blonde Fiends and Giggling Grandmas     1
A Morality Play: Ruth Snyder and Judd Gray     7
Dead a Thousand Times: Anna Antonio     41
Eva Coo and Murder on Crumhorn Mountain     67
Rough on Rats: Mary Frances Creighton     93
A Nuisance to Society: Helen Fowler     123
The Lonely Heart: Martha Beck     143
A Difficult Concept     173
Notes     185
Bibliography     207
Index     211
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