Texas woman who killed neighbour to die in rare execution

AUSTIN, Texas (REUTERS) - Kimberly McCarthy is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection in Texas on Tuesday, the first woman to be put to death in the United States (US) in more than two years, for the stabbing murder of her neighbour in 1997.

Women are rarely executed in the US. Only 12 female inmates were put to death since capital punishment was reinstated by the Supreme Court in 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Centre.

The last woman executed was Teresa Lewis in Virginia on Sept 23, 2010, the information centre said.

"Although women commit about 10 per cent of murders, capital cases also require some aggravating factor like rape, robbery, or physical abuse," said Mr Richard Dieter, executive director of the information centre, adding that women usually have not committed a long list of prior felonies.

"It's unclear whether jurors or prosecutors may be more lenient in potential prosecutions of women, since there are relatively few," said Mr Dieter.

McCarthy, 51, was convicted of entering the Lancaster, Texas home of her 71-year-old neighbour, Dorothy Booth, on July 21, 1997, under the pretense of borrowing some sugar. She then stabbed Booth five times, according to the Texas attorney general's summary of the case.

She also cut off Booth's left ring finger in order to take her diamond ring, which she later pawned.

McCarthy also was believed to be responsible for the murders of two other elderly women, one using a meat tenderiser as a weapon and another using a claw hammer, according to the Attorney General's summary.

McCarthy was found guilty in 1998 by a Dallas County jury of murdering Booth and sentenced to death. Her conviction was overturned by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in 2001 because no attorney was present when she was questioned after the crime even though she had requested a lawyer, court documents show. She was tried a second time in 2002, was again found guilty by a Dallas County jury, and again sentenced to death.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in 2004 agreed with the second conviction.

McCarthy would be the second person executed in the US so far this year. Forty-three inmates were put to death in 2012.

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