Posted by Censor Librorum on Apr 3, 2007 | Categories: Lesbian in a Catholic Sort of Way

Jealousy drove a woman to kill her lover’s friend, then dismember her body with a chain saw and burn it, a prosecutor said yesterday as he opened South Dakota’s first death penalty trial against a woman.

Defense attorneys argued there was not enough evidence to convict Daphne Wright, 43, who is charged with kidnapping and murdering Darlene VanderGiesen, 42. VanderGiesen’s bone fragments were found in the basement of Wright’s Sioux Falls home.

Wright became upset when her girlfriend, Sallie Collins, befriended VanderGiesen, prosecutor Dave Nelson told jurors. “The reason for this murder? Jealosy,” he said. The three women were deaf and knew each other through the deaf community. “In her words, she felt Darlene was trying to destroy her relationship with Sallie,” Nelson said. “There was no romantic relationship between Darlene and Sallie. They were friends.” (Darlene was supposedly trying to mediate a tense situation between Daphne and Sallie.)

Darlene VanderGiesen disappeared on February 1, 2006. She was later found dead and dismembered, her body parts scattered between a landfill in Sioux Falls and a ditch near Beaver Creek, Minnesota.

Ten days later Wright was arrested on murder charges. According to court documents, a search of Wright’s basement yielded bone fragments and tissue that matched VanderGiesen’s DNA. Autopsy reports determined the cause of death was either suffocation or a blow to the head. It is believed a chain saw was used to dismember VanderGiesen after she had been killed.

“Within hours of disposing of Darlene VanderGiesen’s remains the night before, this defendent embraced Darlene’s mother, hugged her, and said she was sorry she was missing and told Darlene’s mother that she would pray for her return,” Nelson said.

But the case of Daphne Wright, a deaf woman charged with murder in a lesbian love triangle, is raising a question that goes beyond the case itself: Should deaf defendants ever face the death penalty?

A motion filed by Wright’s attorneys argues that imposing the death penalty on Wright violates the Eighth Amendment, which forbids the infliction of “cruel and unusual punishments.” Wright’s attorneys say because she has been deaf since early childhood she is at an unfair advantage in trying to persuade a jury to spare her life.

I agree with Daphne Wright’s attorneys that she not face the death penalty because she cannot communicate in her own voice to the jury. After sitting on a jury, I think the verdict has a lot to do with how the jury views the evidence against the character of those involved. The accused needs to able to speak in their own defense. However, if she is found guilty, her deafness is no requisite for leniency. She should serve every day of her sentence.

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