U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs Bureau of Justice Statistics
Executive Summary September 1995, NCJ-156831
Spouse Murder Defendants in Large Urban Counties
(Note: This file does not contain graphics or tables. The full report may be ordered using the title and NCJ number above by calling the BJS Clearinghouse at 1-800-732-3277.)
Number of spouse murder defendants and their demographic characteristics
In 1988 the justice system in the Nation's 75 largest counties disposed of an estimated 540 spouse murder cases. Husbands charged with killing their wife outnumbered wives charged with killing their husband. Of the
540, 318--or 59%--were husband defendants and 222--or 41%--were wife defendants.
Blacks comprised 55% of the 540 defendants, and whites comprised 43%. Among husband defendants 51% were black and 45% were white. Among wife defendants 61% were black and 39% were white. In 97%
of the murders, both spouses were the same race.
Ages of spouse murder defendants ranged from 18 to 87. The average age was 39. The average age of husband defendants was 41; of wife defendants, 37 years.
First-degree murder was the most frequent charge at arrest, accounting for 70% of defendants. In descending order of seriousness, charges were distributed this way across the 540 spouse murder defendants:
70% first-degree murder
24% second-degree murder
6% nonnegligent manslaughter
How the justice system disposed of spouse murder cases
Cases were disposed of in one of three ways:
(1) the prosecutor declined to prosecute; or
(2) the defendant pleaded not guilty, stood trial, and was either acquitted or convicted; or
(3) the defendant pleaded guilty.
Of the 540 spouse murder defendants, 232--or 43%--pleaded guilty to killing their spouse, and 238--44%--pleaded not guilty and stood trial. The remaining 70 persons--or 13%--were not prosecuted.
Outcome for spouse murder defendants who pleaded not guilty and stood trial
Of the 238 who pleaded not guilty, 63% were tried by a jury and the remaining 37% were tried by a judge. Together, judges and juries acquitted 16% of the 238 spouse murder defendants and convicted 84%--or 199 persons--of killing their spouse.
Bench trials (trials before a judge) had a higher acquittal rate than jury trials: 26% of bench trials ended in acquittal, versus 11% of jury trials.
Defendants convicted of killing their spouse
Of the 540 spouse murder defendants, 431 (or 80%) were ultimately convicted of killing their spouse. Their conviction was the result of either pleading guilty (232 persons) or being convicted at trial (199 persons).
While most persons arrested (70%) for spouse murder were charged with first-degree murder, most persons convicted (52%) of spouse murder had negligent or nonnegligent manslaughter as their conviction offense.
Sentences for defendants convicted of killing their spouse
Of the 431 defendants convicted of killing their spouse, 89% were sentenced to a State prison, 1% were sentenced to a county jail, and the remaining 10% received a sentence of straight probation (no prison or jail
An estimated 12% of the 431 convicted spouse murderers received a sentence to life imprisonment and 1% received the death penalty.
Excluding life and death sentences, the average prison term imposed was 13 years.
Wife defendants less likely to be convicted
Wife defendants had a lower conviction rate than husband defendants--
* Of the 222 wife defendants, 70% were convicted of killing their mate. By contrast, of the 318 husband defendants, 87% were convicted of spouse murder.
* Of the 100 wife defendants tried by either a judge or jury, 31% were acquitted. But of the 138 husband defendants tried, 6% were acquitted.
* Of the 59 wife defendants tried by a jury, 27% were acquitted. But of the estimated 91 husband defendants tried by a jury, none was acquitted.
Convicted wife defendants sentenced less severely
An estimated 156 wives and 275 husbands were convicted of killing their spouse. Convicted wives were less likely than convicted husbands to be sentenced to prison, and convicted wives received shorter prison sentences than their male counterparts--
* 81% of convicted wives but 94% of convicted husbands received a prison sentence.
* On average, convicted wives received prison sentences that were about 10 years shorter than what husbands received. Excluding life or death sentences, the average prison sentence for killing a spouse was 6 years for wives but 16.5 years for husbands.
* Among wives sentenced to prison, 15% received a sentence of 20 years or more (including life imprisonment and the death penalty); among husbands, it was 43%.
Victim provocation more often present in wife defendant cases
According to information contained in prosecutor files, more wife defendants (44%) than husband defendants (10%) had been assaulted by their spouse (threatened with a weapon or physically assaulted) at or around the time of the murder.
Self-defense as possible explanation for wives' lower conviction rate
In certain circumstances, extreme victim provocation may justify taking a life in self-defense. Provocation was more often present in wife defendant cases, and wife defendants were less likely than husband
defendants to be convicted, suggesting that the relatively high rate of victim provocation characteristic of wife defendant cases was one of the reasons wife defendants had a lower conviction rate than
husband defendants. Consistent with that, of the provoked wife defendants, 56% were convicted, significantly lower than either the 86% conviction rate for unprovoked wife defendants or the 88% conviction rate
for unprovoked husbands.
No explanation for why State prison sentences were, on average, 10 years shorter for wife defendants than husband defendants
Wives received shorter prison sentences than husbands (a 10-year difference, on average) even when the comparison is restricted to defendants who were alike in terms of whether or not they were
* The average prison sentence for unprovoked wife defendants was 7 years, or 10 years shorter than the average 17 years for unprovoked husband defendants.
Victim's race unrelated to outcomes
The victim was black in 55% of cases and white in 43%. The likelihood of a defendant being convicted of spouse murder was about the same whether the murder victim was white or black. Among spouse murder
defendants whose victim was white, 81% were convicted. Among those whose victim was black, 79% were convicted.
Likewise, the sentence was unrelated to the victim's race. The likelihood of a convicted spouse murderer receiving a prison sentence was about the same whether the murder victim was white or black: the convicted spouse murderer was sentenced to prison in 93% of cases where the victim was white, not significantly different from the 87% of cases where the victim was black. The length of the prison sentence imposed on a convicted spouse murderer was generally unrelated to whether the murder victim was white or black--
* For conviction for first-degree murder, the average prison term (excluding life and death sentences) was 29 years in white-victim cases, not significantly different from the 32 years in black-victim cases
* For conviction for second-degree murder, the average prison term (excluding life sentences) was 19 years in white-victim cases, significantly longer than the 13 years in black-victim cases. However, 23% of
convicted second-degree murder defendants in black-victim cases received a sentence of life imprisonment, compared to 8% of defendants in white-victim cases.
* For conviction for nonnegligent manslaughter, the average prison term (excluding life sentences) was 8 years in white-victim cases, not significantly different from the average 6 years in black-victim cases.
Defendant's race unrelated to outcomes
The likelihood of conviction, and of a prison sentence if convicted, and the length of the prison sentence were about the same whether the spouse murder defendant was white or black--
* 78% of white defendants were convicted, not significantly different from the 80% of black defendants.
* Among convicted spouse murderers, 93% of white defendants were sentenced to prison, not significantly different from the 88% of black defendants.
Three measures of processing time were taken from the day of the murder--to arrest, to indictment, and to final disposition. Most spouse murder defendants were arrested on the same day the killing occurred. Average time to indictment was 4 months. Average time to final disposition was almost exactly 1 year.
For husbands tried by a jury, 12. months was the average elapsed time from the day of the murder to the conclusion of the jury trial. For wives tried by a jury it was significantly longer, about 18. months.
This study is based upon a systematic sample of murder cases disposed of in the 75 most populous counties in 1988. A case was considered disposed if the prosecutor screened it out, if the defendant pleaded guilty,
or if the defendant went to trial and was either convicted or acquitted. The 75 are where a little over half of all murders in the Nation occur.
Spouse murder defendants in the sample were drawn from State prosecutor files in 33 of the 75 counties. The counties were widely scattered, from Los Angeles and San Diego, Denver and Dallas, to Philadelphia and Dade County (Miami). For each defendant, data collectors filled out a lengthy questionnaire and prepared a brief narrative from file information. Prosecutor files include such items as the police arrest report, investigator
reports, and information on how the case was disposed. Questionnaires and narratives are the sources of data for this report.
The same database used in this report was previously analyzed by John M. Dawson and Barbara Boland (Murder in Large Urban Counties, 1988, BJS Special Report, NCJ-140614, May 1993) and by John M. Dawson and Patrick A. Langan (Murder in Families, BJS Special Report, NCJ-143498, July 1994). - from here
Sexism and the death chamber
Chivalry lives when a woman must die.
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By Cathy Young
May 4, 2000 | On Tuesday night in Varner, Ark., 28-year-old Christina Marie Riggs was executed for the 1997 murders of her two small children. She was given a lethal injection of potassium chloride, the drug she had originally planned to use to kill her children. (She suffocated them after a botched attempt of the drugging plan.)
Riggs, a former nurse, was put to death despite pleas for her life from anti-death-penalty groups including Amnesty International and the American Civil Libertes Union. In fact, there was little difference between the execution of Riggs and the other 28 executions carried out in the United States so far this year, except that Riggs, who said she wanted to die to be with her "babies," had refused to appeal her sentence or to seek clemency from Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
And yet her death was much bigger news.
The cause for intense public soul-searching and beating of breasts was not the nature of Riggs' crime or her wish to die. It was her gender. It was, for all intents and purposes, a demonstration of garden-variety sexism. And this isn't the first time our hypocrisy has been blatantly displayed.
Riggs was the first woman to be executed in Arkansas in 150 years, and only the fifth executed in the nation since the U.S. Supreme Court lifted the ban on capital punishment in 1976. Obviously, the very rarity of women's executions makes them newsworthy. But this is only the statistical manifestation of the stubborn gender discrimination that taints our attitude about capital punishment in this country.
Whether one sees the death penalty as justice or barbarism (and, for the record, I have no moral objection to imposing it for premeditated murder, though the risk of the state taking an innocent life is troubling enough to warrant opposition to the practice), surely the perpretrator's gender should be irrelevant.
But that is not the way it works in the real world. We are consistently more likely to seek mitigating circumstances for women's heinous deeds, to see female criminals as disturbed or victimized rather than evil. The thought of a woman in the death chamber makes people cringe -- even those who have no problem with sending a man to his death for his crimes.
It appears that chivalry still lives when a woman must die.
Two years ago, there were many more headlines and much more debate as Karla Faye Tucker awaited execution in Texas for a brutal double murder. Tucker had become a born-again Christian and her clemency petition was backed by such unusual suspects as Christian Coalition leader Pat Robertson, Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell and right-wing hero Oliver North -- all generally pro-capital punishment.
While most of Tucker's champions insisted that redemption and not womanhood was the issue, none had intervened on behalf of male murderers who had experienced similar death-row conversions. And there was ample evidence to suggest that the support for "this sweet woman of God," as Robertson put it, was not entirely gender-neutral.
On CNN's "Crossfire," when asked if the crusade to save Tucker was an instance of "misplaced chivalry," North gallantly replied, "I don't think chivalry can ever be misplaced" -- though he went on to insist that "gender is not a factor." Meanwhile, on the left, the chivalrous Geraldo Rivera dispensed with any pretense of neutrality and issued a bizarre plea to Texas Gov. George W. Bush on his CNBC show: "Please, don't let this happen. This is -- it's very unseemly. Texas, manhood, macho swagger ... What are ya, going to kill a lady? Oh, jeez. Why?"
The lady in question, by the way, had used a pickax to dispatch two sleeping people (one of whom had made her angry by parking his motorbike in her living room) and later bragged that she experienced an orgasm with every swing.
Some criminal justice experts, such as Victor Streib, dean of the law college at Ohio Northern University, argue that the double standard favoring women kicks in long before the final death watch, and that women offenders are "screened out at all levels of the system." Women commit about 10 percent of all murders in the U.S., yet receive only about 2 percent of the death sentences and account for about 1 percent of death-row inmates, since their sentences are more often commuted or reversed.
True, numbers don't tell the whole story. Male killers are more likely to have committed the kinds of crimes that make them eligible for a death sentence, from cop-killing to murder during the commission of another crime such as robbery. When women kill, their victims are more likely to be family members, including their own children -- which, rightly or not, tends to be treated as a lesser crime.
Still, it is worth noting that while women commit nearly 30 percent of spousal murders (excluding homicides ruled to be in self-defense), they account for only 15 percent of prisoners sentenced to death for killing a spouse.
And the disparity between the treatment of male and female defendants can be stunning when you look beyond the numbers. In 1995, Texas executed Jesse Dewayne Jacobs for a murder that, by the prosecutors' admission, was committed by his sister Bobbie Jean Hogan. It was Hogan who had gotten her brother to help her abduct Etta Ann Urdiales -- her boyfriend's ex-wife who was making vexatious demands for child support -- and who had actually pulled the trigger.
When Hogan went on trial, separately from her brother and co-conspirator, her lawyers managed to persuade the jury that the gun went off accidentally and obtained a verdict of involuntary manslaughter. She received a 10-year prison sentence.
Maybe we don't know for certain that gender bias played a role in these different outcomes. Two male accomplices in a crime can receive strikingly disparate sentences, since much depends on the personalities of the jurors and the quality of the defense. But it's hardly a stretch to conclude that gender matters. Jurors may not intentionally go easy on women, but they may be far more inclined to believe that a gun was not fired on purpose if it was in a woman's hands. How many times have we seen that one in the movies?
And then there is the perennial persuader in consideration of a woman's fate before the law: sympathy. When Susan Smith sent her two little sons into the muddy waters of a lake strapped into their car seats, apparently because they were an obstacle to her love life, and made up a story about a black carjacker, she was initially denounced as a cold-blooded monster.
Yet even her image underwent a gradual shift, with revelations that she had been molested by her stepfather as a teen (even though, somewhat less sympathetically, she had continued carrying on an affair with him as an adult and married woman) and suggestions that her no-good husband was really to blame for her anguish (even though there was little reason to believe that he was any more responsible for the breakdown of the marriage than she was). "This is not a case about evil," Smith's attorney, Judy Clarke, told the jury that gave her life in prison. "It is about despair and sadness."
Smith may have cut a pitiable figure. So, apparently, did Guinevere Garcia, who fatally shot her husband for his insurance money 14 years after she had suffocated her 11-month-old daughter -- and whose death sentence was commuted to life in prison by Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar in 1996.
Garcia had been sexually abused as a child and was an alcoholic prostitute by the age of 15. But the same was true of Jesse Timmendequas, the sex offender awaiting execution in New Jersey for strangling five-year-old Megan Kanka, the child who gave her name to "Megan's law." According to trial evidence, Timmendequas had been brutally beaten and sodomized by his father.
In fact, nearly half of male death-row inmates claim to have been physically abused in their childhood, while more than 1 in 4 say that they were sexually molested. Of course, some of these claims of victimization may be self-serving, but then again, not every woman's abuse excuse is the gospel truth.
Of course, not everyone champions gender neutrality when it comes to crime and punishment. Some find the fair sex to be justified in getting unfair treatment. "Women and men do occupy separate places in the collective psyche of society, " Jonathan Last wrote in the conservative Weekly Standard shortly after Tucker's execution. "Because society has a low tolerance for seeing them harmed, women -- even criminals -- have traditionally been treated differently by the justice system. Differently, but still, at least possibly, with justice. The loss of that difference is part of what makes [the] destruction of Karla Faye Tucker so disturbing."
This sort of paternalism -- which, as Last explicitly stated, also provides the justification for keeping women out of combat forces -- seems precisely the sort of sugar-and-spice rationalization that feminists ought to oppose. Yet they have remained largely silent on the subject, for several reasons. One is that when feminism becomes a movement for the advantage of women (rather than for equal treatment), complaining about favoritism toward women doesn't make a lot of sense.
Many also find it hard to admit the basic fact that in Western societies in the modern era, patriarchal norms have revolved less around the subjugation of women through violence -- one of the feminists' favorite themes -- than around less protectiveness toward women.
Far from denouncing double standards, many feminists have contributed to the excuse-making. When Betty Lou Beets, 62, was facing execution in Texas in February for the murder of her fifth husband, Jimmy Don Beets, battered women's advocates rallied to her defense, portraying her as a victim of years of domestic abuse. Beets had been convicted of shooting and wounding her second husband, Bill Lane, and had been charged but never tried in the 1981 death of husband No. 4, Doyle Barker. Beets had never claimed to have been battered during her trial, and had tried to blame the slaying on her two children.
Even when the death penalty is not at issue and even when there are no allegations of physical abuse, murderous women can still qualify for lifesaving prizes in the victim sweepstakes.
Some years ago, Betty Broderick, the California housewife who killed her wealthy ex-husband and his young new wife -- and claimed that the divorce and the alimony payments of $16,000 a month amounted to "white-collar domestic violence" -- became the subject of sympathetic profiles in Ladies Home Journal and Mirabella.
An essay in a feminist anthology on women and violence, "No Angels" (1996), lamented that support for battered women who fight back had not extended to "fighting back against an emotionally abusive husband" and denounced a TV movie portraying Broderick in a negative light as "misogynist."
Contrary to all the evidence, feminists also have asserted that it's women who are treated with extra harshness by the system. In her 1996 book "Still Unequal: The Shameful Truth About Women and Justice in America," Lorraine Dusky asserts that women receive "more severe sentences" for stereotypically male crimes, though she cites no evidence to support this. But according to a 1989 Bureau of Justice Statistics study, male violent offenders were more than twice as likely as women charged with similar crimes to be incarcerated for more than a year.
Other research has found that, even when factors such as severity of the offense and prior criminal record are taken into account, women are more likely to have charges dismissed or to receive a light sentence.
Advocates for battered women also have claimed that a woman who kills her mate is sentenced to an average of 15 to 20 years in prison, while a man gets two to six years. This appalling factoid seems to be pure fiction. A Justice Department study of domestic homicides paints a very different picture: Husbands who killed their wives received an average of 16.5 years in prison; wives who killed husbands got six years. While some of the disparity was due to the fact that more women had been "provoked" -- assaulted or threatened -- before the slaying, the study noted that "the average prison sentence for unprovoked wife defendants was seven years, or 10 years shorter than the average 17 years for the unprovoked husband defendants."
If one truly believes in the full equality of the sexes, it's not difficult to see that protectiveness toward women, whether motivated by chivalry or feminism, keeps us from acheiving a legitimate goal. As Patricia Pearson argues in her 1997 book "When She Was Bad: Violent Women and the Myth of Innocence," making excuses for women's violence ultimately strips them of moral agency and accountability. What does it say about women's ability to function in society, to be workers and leaders, if they are seen as more vulnerable to pressure and more easily forgiven for failing to cope with their emotional problems?
If women are to be treated as adults, we cannot recoil from the execution of a woman the way we do from the execution of a juvenile. The debate about capital punishment should focus on humanity, not womanhood. To demand equality -- yet ask for a special right to clemency -- just won't do.
salon.com | May 4, 2000 - from here
Males Get Longer Sentences than Females for Same Crime
Originally printed in: Los Angeles Daily Journal, August 1, 2001
Author: Marc Angelucci, Angelucci2000@alumni.law.ucla.edu.
When Etta Ann Urdiales was murdered in Colorado, two completely different juries convicted two different people of the crime. Both juries believed there was only one murderer. One convicted Bobbie Hogan, a woman. The other convicted Jess Jacobs, a man. She got 10 years in prison. He was put to death. This case is just one example of the discrimination men face in criminal courts throughout the United States.
According to Pradeep Ramanathan, vice president of the National Coalition of Free Men (NCFM), a volunteer, non-profit organization that has explored and addressed men's issues since 1976, "All the research clearly demonstrates that gender is the most significant biasing factor in determining whether or not someone will be charged, prosecuted, indicted and sentenced, as well as determining the severity of the sentence."
And Ramanathan is right. Department of Justice figures show that being male increases a murderer's chance of receiving a death sentence by more than 20 times. And the data repeatedly confirms that men receive higher sentences than women for the exact same crime. One study, published in Justice Quarterly in 1986, examined 181,197 felonies in California and found that, for the same crime, being male increased the chance of incarceration by 165 percent. Being black, in comparison, increased the chance of incarceration by 19 percent.
Another study, published in Crime & Delinquency in 1989, examined non-accomplice crimes and factored together the number of charges, convicted offenses, prior felony convictions, as well as the race, age, work history and family situation of the accused and found that "gender differences, favoring women, are more often found than race differences, favoring whites."
In yet another study, published in the International Journal of the Sociology of Law, researchers Mathew Zingraff and Randall Thomson found that being male increases sentence lengths more than any other discriminatory variable.
The bias applies to victims as well as the accused. When Edward Glaeser of Harvard University and Bruce Sacerdote of Dartmouth College examined 2,800 homicide cases randomly drawn from 33 urban counties by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, they found that killing a female instead of a male increased sentences by 40.6 percent. Killing a white instead of a black, in comparison, increased sentences by 26.8 percent.
Even when the exact same type of crime is accounted for, the disparities still persist. For example, a drunk driver who kills a black male receives an average sentence of two years. A drunk driver who kills a white male, four years. A drunk driver who kills a white female, six years.
To those who recognize the problem, gender stereotypes are a major culprit. In a 1991 NCFM report titled "Gender and Injustice," researchers John Ryan and Ian Wilson suggest the problem stems from stereotypes about women being more innocent, more reformable and less dangerous than men. Barbara Swartz, former Director of New York's Women's Prison Project, called it the "chivalry factor" and says, "If there were more women judges, more women would go to jail."
Others attribute the problem to the devaluing of male lives. But addressing the causes does little good when the public does not even recognize the problem. One reason that we don't is that the task forces that we appoint to investigate the problem are just as biased as the legal system that they are supposed to monitor, so a full picture of the bias never gets drawn.
In 1980, the National Organization for Women and the National Association of Women Judges formed the National Judicial Education Program to Promote Equality for Women and Men in the Courts (NJEP). In 1986, they wrote "Operating a Task Force on Gender Bias in the Courts: A Manual for Action," which became the manual used by gender bias task forces nationwide. The manual opens by stating that gender bias operates more frequently against women and that it is not a contradiction for task forces to focus primarily on bias against women in courts.
As one might guess, this is exactly what the task forces do. "None of (the commissions) study bias against men," said Ramanathan.
For example, even though men are more likely to get prison and women to get probation for the same crime, a New York task force claimed that it is women who were discriminated against because - get this - they receive longer probation periods. One commission recently justified giving women shorter sentences because women are often custodial parents. But the sentencing disparities persisted in the above studies that took family situations are accounted for. So even if custodial parenthood justifies a shorter sentence, courts are giving men longer sentences than women even when neither (or both) are custodial parents. Needless to say, when a father commits a crime, the courts have no trouble calling him an unfit parent and removing him from his kids.
The gender bias in our courts and in our gender bias task forces is not just an injustice to the victims; it is a tragic betrayal of public trust. In fact, as embarrassing as it sounds, we may need to create task forces to investigate the gender bias of the task forces that we created to investigate gender bias in the first place. - from here
United States Department of Justice. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Federal Justice Statistics Program: Defendants Sentenced Under the Sentencing Reform Act, 2007 [United States] [Computer file]. ICPSR24232-v1. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2009-02-23. doi:10.3886/ICPSR24232 - Source
The following list outlines, per the data that you can download and work with yourself, the percentages less (or more) that women are sentenced for the exact same crime as men:
51% 1 Murder
43% 2 Manslaughter
37% 3 Kidnapping/Hostage
68% 4 Sexual Abuse
34% 5 Assault
57% 6 Bank Robbery
24% 9 Arson
47% 10 Drugs: Trafficking
50% 11 Drugs: Communicatn facilities
81% 12 Drugs: Simple possession
54% 13 Firearms: Use & possess
(21%) 15 Burg/Breaking & Entering
14% 16 Auto Theft
57% 17 Larceny
45% 18 Fraud
46% 19 Embezzlement
49% 20 Forgery/Counterfeiting
40% 21 Bribery
14% 22 Tax offenses
40% 23 Money laundering
62% 24 Racktring (includes extortion)
100% 25 Gambling/Lottery
41% 26 Civil rights offenses
51% 27 Immigration
43% 28 Pornography/Prostitution
32% 29 Offenses in prisons
60% 30 Administration of justice
117% 31 Environmental offenses
34% 32 National defense offenses
100% 33 Antitrust violations
(253%) 34 Food and drug offenses
63% 35 Traffic violations
And now it is possible to calculate how much less, on average, by crime, a woman is sentenced to than a man: 40%. Note that there are only two (2) areas in which women's sentences exceed men's.
Now perhaps the sentences being meted out to women are appropriate, and those given to men are out of line. With this nifty database to hand, I can calculate how many excess years are being doled out to men per primary offense, and the number is.... for 2007...
(drum roll please)
142,036.17 years. - from here
Friday, September 25, 2009
Judical bias, better be a woman.
A collection of articles.