News Post #2

by arielpezzotti on March 15, 2017 - 7:57pm

3)        A very well known Canadian criminal trial that involved Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka shows a perfect example of how different genders are treated in the justice system. This trial took place in the 90’s and was a good display of how even though both perpetrators participated in the same crime they were looked at quite differently. A big part of this trial can be referred to the ‘deal with the devil’ as Karla made a plea bargain with prosecutors to significantly lessen her criminal sanctions. The way Karla was portrayed during the trial was that of a battered, abused wife who went along with her husbands foul actions simply to keep him happy. However, it was later discovered after the deal was already made that this was not the case. Video footage emerged showing Karla willingly partaking in the kidnapping and murders of the young girls. In my personal opinion I think that Karla’s gender definitely played a huge role in the sentencing and ease of her being able to play the victim. Most people do not assume the women to be the one who would be the “monster” in these situations. When Karla put up the front and acted as the victim most people believed her and pitied her because they were able to easily blame her husband as the criminal. As this was more believable, more blame was put on her husband, Paul and he was sentenced much tougher than Karla. This was probably a more normal situation and easier for most people to believe seeing as serial killers are predominately male and very rarely female. When you picture a serial killer it is very rare you picture a woman but rather picture a man who is probably not the best looking and of low class economic status. That being said, that description does not fit Karla or her husband, as they were both good looking “normal” appearing people. This also shocked people because they did not fit the roles of your typical serial killer. I believe that because Karla actively displayed the gender identity of a women people attributed female gender expectations to her. Women are stereotyped to be kind, gentle and caring so it is not easy for society to accept when someone breaks the expectations. People do not generally assume women to be violent killers unless abused by their husbands (battered spouse). Karla used this to her advantage and continued to play on that role which in turn significantly lessened her sentence. Karla made a plea-bargain and ended up being sentenced only 12 years behind bars which is less than half what her husband was sentenced to. After the trial, Paul was sentenced to life with no parole for up to 25 years. Paul was also deemed to be a “dangerous offender” which significantly lessens his chance of ever being released. Both of them participated in the same crimes but were treated quite differently during trial.