Faye Copeland is a seventy-seven-year old woman with fourteen grandchildren and twenty great-grandchildren. In spite of the fact that no evidence linked her to any act of violence, she was convicted of five counts of first degree murder and was sentenced to death on four of those counts. There is little dispute that the murders were committed by her husband, Ray Copeland, and that here is no competent evidence placing Mrs. Copeland anywhere near the scene of any homicide at or near the time they occurred. Mrs. Copeland was convicted solely upon purely circumstantial evidence coupled with false assumptions of knowledge and assent in her husband's conduct.
Mrs. Copeland's convictions and sentence were secured through repeated violations of her constitutional rights. The only evidence that her attorney attempted to present on her behalf to prove her innocence was the testimony of a psychologist that Mrs. Copeland suffers from Battered Woman Syndrome, supported only by testimony that her husband was verbally abusive. The court refused to permit trial counsel to present that testimony to the jury, in violation of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Although the trial court would have permitted evidence Mrs. Copeland was beaten by her husband, trial counsel was not prepared to present such evidence, although there was ample evidence available.
Mrs. Copeland's trial was presided over by a partisan judge who stepped for outside his role of neutral arbiter and affirmatively prohibited the election prosecutor for exercising his power under Missouri law to waive the death penalty in this case. The Trial judge refused to comply with his duty under Missouri law to conduct a constitutionally adequate sentencing hearing; instead, he merely rubber-stamped the verdict of the jury. Repeated misconduct of the trial prosecutors-from which Mrs. Copeland's ill-prepared lawyer sought no protection or relief-infected the entire proceedings with incompetent, inflammatory and prejudicial testimony and remarks in the presence and hearing of the jury.
Mrs. Copeland recently was granted relief from her sentence of death by the federal district court. Mrs. Copeland's case will likely be appealed to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.