In 2003, Alice Nungu was sentenced to death for defending herself and her mother from a vicious attack by her husband. Alice endured daily beatings throughout her marriage, but on this particular evening the violence escalated when Alice’s husband advanced toward her and her aged mother with an axe. Terrified, Alice wrenched away the weapon and fatally struck her attacker. The next morning Alice went to the police to confess what she had done. Instead of compassion, she was met with incredulity and hostility. Charged with murder and too poor to afford effective counsel, Alice was sentenced to death by a court that never heard how her husband had savagely abused her for years, or how she had acted in self-defense. She suffered on death row for the next 12 years, fading from HIV, inhumane living conditions, and lack of food.
In 2015, Alice’s case was reheard with the assistance of Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide. After the court finally heard the evidence that should have prevented her death sentence, it ordered her immediate release. Alice returned to her village to much jubilation. Finally free, she was surrounded by the love and support of her tight-knit community. Better still, her mother was there to greet her. Only weeks later, Alice died, with her mother by her side.
The Alice Project honors Alice and the many other women and girls who have suffered under legal systems blind to the discrimination, violence, and trauma that have marked their lives. It combines research, advocacy, and legal representation for women facing the death penalty to illuminate their unique challenges and draw connections between the causes and consequences of the wrongs they suffer. The Project works with partners around the world to shed light on global trends of discrimination against women that eviscerate the fairness of criminal proceedings against them and compound the inhumanity of their conditions of detention. By telling women’s individual stories, the Project seeks to challenge biased practices, obtain judicial acknowledgment and redress, and strengthen laws that recognize and prevent future injustice.
The first report of The Alice Project is Judged for More Than Her Crime: A Global Overview of Women Facing the Death Penalty.
Last updated on September 17, 2018