World Day Against the Death Penalty – WOMEN on Death Row – Part 3: Shawna Forde, Arizona (USA)

WOMEN sentenced to death:
An invisible reality

On October 10, 2021, the 19th World Day Against the Death Penalty will be dedicated to women,

who are at risk of being sentenced to death ,

who have received a death sentence ,

who have been executed, and

those whose death sentence has been commuted or overturned for innocence.

In March 2011, Shawna Forde was found guilty of planning a robbery of a drug dealer in which both he and his nine-year-old daughter were shot and killed. For that, she received the death penalty.

Shawna denies the charges and is fighting her sentence. With the help of some friends, she keeps an online blog that she uses to inform people about her case and where she publishes all the facts that speak against her guilt.

Life on death row, the coldness there, the loneliness, and the “dehumanization” really got to her at first. But she is a strong woman, and thanks to that strength she has found a way for herself to feel free as a human being within those walls and thus survive emotionally.

Shawna sent us this poetical text:


by Shawna Forde

I long for the days past, I long for something new, deep in my soul I have a longing that is true, I long, with you.

When a man surrenders to the sound of life and lets the sweet, soft, mournful strains… be funneled into his soul to long for love more and more, to enjoy eternally the lover/beloved relationship.

Those who follow the path of devotion become purified through the intensity of their longing for God in whatever form appeals to them most.

Our true longing is only one thing: love, acceptance, peace; everything else is just a physical craving, like a walk in green grass or a cold pint on a hot summer day.

Our true longing that lies in all of us is “love”. Cravings are categories that exist in everyday life, a way to showcase our physical suffering of separation. For a person of faith, our goal is to cultivate our relationship with God.

Many of us get sidetracked with judgment and materialism so that we can become less clear or less passionate about our devotion to God. Most of us are still trying to decide where to direct our devotion, or whether we want to direct it anywhere at all.

We all want to be known. God wants to know us.

I have sat many times and I wondered if my heart will harden, shadowed by the clouds that hide the sunlight with longing. Then the clouds fade away and a brillian light touches me as warmth floods every part of my being. Without a divine mood, none of this can happen. Longing can create an athmosphere of allowing God’s light to shine through your soul; craving something is only a detour.

“Be still and know I am here with you, be still, be still, when the shadow’s come down the hill, be still and know I am here with you, be still and know I am….

Shawna writes about herself:

My name is Shawna Forde. l was sentenced to death by the state of Arizona in March 2011, not as a person accused of murder, but as a woman accused of masterminding the deadly robbery of a drug dealer.

At 42, I was arrested by FBI agents on the southern border of Arizona, with no adult criminal record. Out of nowhere I was turned into a woman who leads men and masterminds murder.

When my trial began, the court was packed with media due to a high profile crime that took place the Saturday prior. A mass shooting in a Safeway parking lot had left six dead, including a federal judge, and left a congresswoman (Gabriel Gifford) in critical condition.

My lawyer Eric Larsen came into jail that Saturday night hours after the shooting to tell me he had to throw my trial. He was positive I would never receive a fair trial due to all of Tucson and the country reeling over the recent events.

The prosecution had zero evidence placing me at the scene of crime, and no facts or evidence to back up their claim of my involvement which was based on nothing but their fantasy “theory”. Then the prosecution proceeded to lie, cheat, and hide evidence that would’ve exonerated me. highlights and showcases so many outrageous violations by the prosecution, it’s almost unbelievable!

So much so, that even a juror from my trial came forward to make declarations and file them with the Arizona Supreme Court. The juror, after seeing my appeals on the online blog, became outraged that the prosecution had lied to the jury and used them to send an innocent woman to death row.

These declarations are published on the blog as well for anyone who cares to see them.

Valentine’s Day 2011, verdict: “guilty”.

March 2011 I enter Perryville women’s corrections, Lumley unit where they house Death Row.

As I pull up at the gate to my new yard, courageously, I hold my head high and fix my gaze with indomitable will at my oppressors, with my hands and feet bound in chains walking through the sea of brown uniforms to my cell on death row.

I made no sound as the intensity of the realization weighed heavy in my soul, the utter feeling of aloneness, a weak echo pushing my feet, one foot in front of the other.

An acid test of my strength in a cold, stark environment as inmates stood with ghostly faces silently watching my decent into a hell of a new kind.

Subjected to the treatment of those imprisoned in solitary confinement indefinitely, never allowed to escape the feeling of chains that bind me, forever to leave scars around my ankles and my heart. These chains were put on me whenever my door was opened, and my freedom was reduced to an 8×11 cell (as long as no human was near me).

It’s an unspeakable, horrifying coldness. Being sentenced to death is barbarically brutal. Another elemental component of death penalty conviction is that of dehumanization. A death penalty sentence requires the violent restrictions and overthrow of the most important characteristics of humanity, the God given right of individual personhood; the right to life.

As an innocent woman sentenced to death, for me there is nothing more evil than the unjust dominion over the very life of a person by some other person (or 12)–to be thoroughly erased by society, in an industry wanting only a conviction and a death, my death.

The media plays a major role as well in social control by inflammatory information, motivated to produce fear and transform the image of a person from one being into another. Without facts, without truth, it creates an assumption of guilt. Later this can change drastically in the appeals process when truth and evidence is revealed; evidence that was hidden by the prosecution, now being exposed. As in my case, and many other cases! You would think this could restore the balance of the scales back to innocent but it doesn’t. To me this is criminal. And of course new revelations are followed by silence from all those who screamed how guilty I was; that a life was taken, and the solution to restoring the balance was to take a life, my life.

Simple enough to form in words; quite something else to live through.

Let the war begin.

As most of my critics work hard and rarely take a day off to see that no benefit is ever received by someone on Death Row, nothing to resemble a life with any joy or human contact, not even a glance at any form of humanity…

There of course is always more to the story..

What I realized was the true was within myself; my ability to express the beauty of the innate elements of my humanity.

I had to pause, as the sunlight clasps the earth, I could feel the blessings upon myself and feel rays of light coming to me in waves, comforting me and securing my faith. My deepest feelings found a home in my heart as warmth washed over me, a warmth that goes deeper then my bones.

i, who believed I was a prisoner every waking morning, waking up trembling at the will of others, had decided that I was my own person and completely free. This became one of the happiest days I ever experienced.

I am a woman of earth, courageous, kind, strong, beautiful, a teacher, a learner and a doer, a mother, a grandmother, a lover and a friend.

They may take my body, but never shall they take my spirit nor my love. Because we pay a price for everything we have and everything we are, ambition is not cheaply bought, but worth having.

Service is my ambition, to help educate and change lives through me from my soul with love.

My true measure of myself is how I treat others even when they exclude me from their moral universe with impunity and praise the decision to execute my body.

I choose to live my life with laughter while bringing love to all those in my life.

“Thy radiance in light will not leave me even if nothing will bring back splendor in the grass or the glory of the flower.

We will grieve not but rather find strength in what remains behind.”

Several women in U.S. death row are seeking pen pals through our website – such as in Arizona (Sammantha U.), California (Tanya N.), Mississippi (Lisa C.) and North Carolina (Carlette P.).

Karin Rück
German Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty


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