Information from http://www.law.uoregon.edu/faculty/cforell/docs/EitherWayitGoesDown.pdf
Mary Ellen Samuels of California is one such woman. Styled “The Green
Widow” by the press, in 1988, Ms. Samuels hired a hit-man to kill her estranged
husband and then reportedly hired two more men to strangle the hit-man.
Money was the only motive discussed at the trial.
After the hit man shot her husband in the back of the head,
December 8, 1988, at his Northridge home, she spent the spoils—
the entire $500,000 inheritance—in less than a year. She traded in
her black Mazda, with a license plate abbreviating “Nasty Vixen,”
for a white Porsche. She bought furs in Vegas. She rented
limousines for long nights of club hopping and vacationed in pricy
resorts. She outfitted herself in slinky outfits from “Trashy
Lingerie,” a Melrose boutique.165
Mary Ellen was also photographed by her lover in Cancun with $20,000 in $100
bills draped across her naked body.166 Not the picture of a grieving widow.
Although Mary Ellen Samuels and her husband had been separated for
three years, and he had agreed after a long struggle not to contest the
finalization of their divorce, the press still painted Bob Samuels as a caring,
hardworking, devoted husband.167 He had struggled to give Mary Ellen the
creature comforts she enjoyed and yet it was not enough for her. Mary Ellen
was sexual, ungrateful, deceitful, conniving and evil.
Mary Ellen threatens the patriarchy—she saw her husband as a meal
ticket and went about cashing in that meal ticket in a sneaky, deceitful, and
underhanded manner. She seduced a man and won his love only to kill him
when it appeared the well of his love was drying up. She is “other” than woman.
She was a spider, a witch, the “green widow,” not a woman.
Mary Ellen Samuels did a horrible thing—she arranged for the death of
another human being. In her trial, however, sex-role stereotyping clouded the
application of justice. It would be easy to say, “Mary Ellen fit into the mold of an
evil woman and this is why the jury was able to sentence her to die.” To say this
would be to miss the role the patriarchy played in her trial and to shift the focus
away from the sexism inherent in the system. The sex-role stereotypes here
made Mary Ellen into a caricature and subtracted from the seriousness of the
crimes and the tragedy of the death of her husband.