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Karla Homolka--From a Woman in Danger to a Dangerous Woman: Chronicling the Shifts

NCJ Number
Women & Criminal Justice Volume: 17 Issue: 4 Dated: 2006 Pages: 37-61
Jennifer M. Kilty; Sylvie Frigon
Date Published
25 pages
This article examines the defense strategy that was used for Karla Homolka during her trial in Canada in 1993.
Throughout the trial, Karla Homolka was constructed as a dangerous woman and a woman in danger. The author argues that Homolka’s endangerment directly impacted the choices available to her, and thus partially mitigated her agency. However, when videotapes were entered into evidence that showed a smiling Karla and not the scared, abused Karla, the self-construction of victim dwindled. Through the participation of the crimes, Karla not only transgressed the social norms of accepted femininity but she also violated laws and human moral values. Karla highlights the new paradox of the sexually violent female predator. It appears that women who participate in violent crimes are more negatively typified, given that they are so far removed from the nurturing motherly role. In addition, most of the criminological literature has either ignored women or been stereotypical when it comes to the crimes committed by women. It should be noted that while women make up between 2 and 5 percent of the federally sentenced population in Canada, they are charged with between 10 and 12 percent of all violent crimes. The current literature has ignored analyzing the reasons why women commit violent crimes. The three data sources used were: (1) the trial transcript from Karla’s plea agreement; (2) Homolka’s examination in chief, cross-examination and the re-examination at Paul Bernardo’s trial; and (3) the report to the Attorney General of Ontario on Certain Matters Relating to Karla Homolka. Notes, references