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22 April 2011

Twelve Southern Men Have Voted to Hang a Southern Woman (Battered Wife, or Cold-Blooded Killer Part IV)

Cora Lou Vinson to Hang July 28 for Husband's Murder

Hangman's Rope for Slayer of Dr. W. D. Vinson

Death Penalty for Mrs. Cora Vinson

"Mrs. Cora Lou Vinson was convicted by a jury in superior court here tonight of the murder of her husband, Dr. W. D. Vinson, and sentenced to be hanged July 28.

The verdict without a recommendation to mercy was more than even Solicitor General Boykin had asked, as he had urged the jury to convict the woman and fix her sentence at life imprisonment, saying he had never asked that a woman be hanged. Under Georgia law a murder verdict without a recommendation carries the death penalty which the presiding judge formally imposes." (Montgomery Advertiser, Alabama, 4 June 1922)

From 4 June 1922 edition Macon Telegraph, Georgia article by John W. Hammond:
Mrs. Vinson sat calmly by the defense table, chewing gum, while the jurors filed into the court room, and the verdict was being read by Assistant Solicitor E. A. Stephens. She gave no sign of emotion when the fateful word 'guilty' was sounded through the intense stillness of the big court room.

Mrs. Pauline Brown, daughter of the condemned woman, sat by her mother. She, too, appeared unmoved.

Judge Humphries asked Mrs. Vinson if she had anything to say why the sentence of death should not be pronounced on her. The woman, still chewing gum, merely shook her head.
So why was she given the harshest penalty of death when it wasn't even asked for? The article continues:
There has lately been very widespread discussion in Atlanta of the fact that "too many women have been shooting up men and getting away with it," and at the outset of this case, even though the court officials apparently did not work to that end, there was reason to believe Mrs. Vinson would get the extreme penalty if the evidence justified it.

Feeling of Unrest.
It is a fact that, ever since the case of Mrs. Williams, the young woman who shot to death an engineer on a drinking party, and drew practically no sentence at all at the State prison farm, there has been an evident feeling of unrest. That had been added to by the fact that it is reported here, and has been for some time, that Mrs. Williams is no longer at the prison farm, but is somewhere "out in the State having a good time."

In the past few years there have been no less than half a dozen cases of this kind, in each one of which the verdict has been mere nominal punishment.
So is that the finale of the saga of Cora Vinson? Not by a long shot. Her attorneys immediately filed an appeal "to the higher tribunals" for a new trial. Pending that ruling, Cora's execution was automatically stayed.

Her words on the matter: "I don't believe they will hang me for what any woman would have done under the circumstances."

Tomorrow: the feminist debate rages, and the final ruling.

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