TWO YEARS AGO I ATTENDED A TRIAL in Houston that resulted in the death penalty for a woman. At the time, there had been several national stories about the number of death sentences handed down in Harris County, more by far than in any other county in the country, and I was there to see what I thought about it. Erica Yvonne Sheppard, who was then 21, had helped murder a woman for her car. The physical evidence against her was incontrovertible, and she had confessed as well. The crime was particularly brutal, Sheppard was particularly unrepentant at the time and seemed to regard her trial as a kind of entertainment, and tearful members of the victim’s family attended each day of the trial. I wrote then that if I had been on the jury, I would have voted for the death penalty too. Looking back at the trial and looking back at the senseless brutality of the crime, I would vote that way again today. But looking forward to Texas’ executing a woman, I have to say I might not.
There are seven women on death row in Texas. Three of them have been there more than ten years. Their cases are still on appeal,