A group of women, all exonerated of serious crimes, who are backing a new Northwestern University Women's Project that will examine cases of wrongfully convicted women and focus on the obstacles they face as their cases make their way through the criminal justice system, reports the Chicago Tribune. The path to freedom by those who are wrongfully convicted can be more daunting for women for a number of reasons. Compared with male defendants, crimes for which women are accused more often lack DNA evidence — meaning DNA cannot be used to exonerate them.
"I think the whole DNA revolution leaves women behind because their cases tend to not be those type of cases," says project co-director Karen Daniel said. "If you don't have it in your case, it can be harder to defend." In more than 60 percent of cases where women were exonerated, no crime actually occurred. Women often are convicted in cases where accidental or natural deaths and even deaths resulting from medical disorders were mistaken for murders. Women accused of harming their children or other loved ones are often convicted on largely circumstantial evidence. Women must combat what project co-director Karen Daniel calls "the mother myth," the notion that mothers should be able to walk through a wall of fire to save their children.