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One Less Woman on Death Row


ap_paula_cooper_nt_130617_wblogAs of the beginning of this year, 63 women were on death row waiting to executed.

Now there’s one less. On Monday, Paula Copper was released from Indiana’s Rockville Correctional Facility after serving 27 years behind bars. In 1986, Cooper was convicted of murdering Ruth Pelke, a 78-year-old Bible study teacher. According to Indiana court records, Cooper, then a teenager, struck Pelke with a vase, cut her arms and legs and then stabbed her multiple times during a robbery attempt.

After her conviction, 16-year-old Cooper became the youngest person on death row in the United States.

CNN reports that more than 2 million people signed a petition asking the Indiana Supreme Court to overturn Cooper’s death sentence. In an unlikely twist, the victim’s grandson, Bill Pelke, struck up a friendship with Cooper and appealed on her behalf.

Despite the heinous nature of the crime, Cooper’s release subtracts one black woman from this country’s shameful prison industrial complex equation, which disproportionately incarcerates people of color. Though the vast majority of death row inmates are men, 12 women–two black–have been executed since 1976.

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