Nearly thirty years after the lone woman on Tennessee’s death row killed a 19-year-old because she “just felt mean that day,” a judge upheld her sentence.
Tennessee v. Tyshon Booker, a recent Tennessee Supreme Court case, was mentioned by Christa Pike’s attorneys, 47, in an attempt to persuade the judge to reverse the decision, according to the Nashville Tennessean.
The Tennessee Supreme Court stated in the Booker decision, “In satisfying our duty to decide constitutional problems, we hold that a default life sentence when enforced on a juvenile homicide criminal with no regard for the juvenile’s age or other factors violates the rule against cruel and disproportionate punishment under the Eighth Amendment to the United States the Constitution.”
Judge Rules on Sentence for Christa Pike, Only Woman on Tennessee’s Death Row
In January 1995, Pike killed Colleen Slemmer at the age of eighteen.
According to The Nashville Tennessean Because there “is no hard line of maturity or difference between the brain development of a 17-year-old and an 18-year-old,” Pike’s attorneys argued that her sentence should be changed.
WBIR-TV notes. In his ruling, Judge Scott Green stated, “This ruling applies only to juvenile homicide offenders — not to adult offenders.”
In 1996, Pike was found guilty of murder and given the death penalty. Pike is the only person remaining on death row who was 18 years old when they committed the murder, according to the Nashville Tennessean, because of her age at the time of the murder. Furthermore, it is said that she is the sole woman on Tennessee’s death row.
“At the time of the crime nearly 30 years ago, Christa Pike was an adolescent, just 18 years old, with a neglected severe mental disorder and an abusive past of severe, repeated physical and sexual abuse, violence, rape, and neglect that began when Christa was very young,” Pike’s attorneys said in a statement in response to the Knox County judge’s decision this week. The 17-year-old co-defendant of Christa will soon be eligible for parole. However, Christa, who was only a few months older, might be put to death.”
Appeals Court Considers Christa Pike’s Brutal Murder Case: A Look at the Details
The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals received Pike’s appeal in 2018, which states that on January 11, 1995, Pike told her friend she intended to kill Slemmer because she “had just felt mean that day.”
The buddy saw Pike on January 12, 1995, along with Slemmer, Pike’s boyfriend, and another Job Corps Center student. Around eight o’clock in the evening, the group left, and they didn’t see Slemmer when they came back two hours later.
Pike went to her friend’s room that same night and allegedly used a box cutter to slit Slemmer’s throat many times, struck her with asphalt, and cut her back with a butcher cleaver. She proceeded to carve a pentagram into Slemmer’s chest and forehead.
Pike saved a portion of Slemmer’s skull “as a souvenir,” according to the appeal, and even took it with her to breakfast the following morning. She was allegedly neglected by her parents and subjected to sexual assault at the hands of her grandmother’s lover during her challenging upbringing. Just before she turned eighteen, her father allegedly attempted to place her for adoption. Pike’s mother allegedly continued to drink at a pub when Pike was younger despite the fact that Pike was experiencing convulsions and required hospitalization.
“Challenging Childhood and Psychological Evaluation: Understanding Christa Pike’s Appeal”
The appeal stated that in part, “All in all, the members of the jury observed a clear story: Pike’s childhood and parenting were extremely difficult and, in some ways, indicated how she became a person able to commit such a brutal murder.”
As stated in the court file, Dr. Eric Engum testified during Pike’s trial that while she did not show indicators of brain damage or insanity, she did have “very severe borderline personality disorder,” as well as signs of use of cannabis and depression.
Dr. William Bernet, a different forensic psychiatrist, stated that while Slemmer’s murder had “satanic elements,” it seemed to be more indicative of ‘an adolescent engaging in Satanism.'”
Her 2018 suit was denied by the Tennessee Supreme Court justices on the grounds that Pike’s case did not constitute an exception to a “heinous and inexplicable crime.”
“But in sentencing Pike to death, we rule out the possibility that her crime was a product of fixed immorality rather than the immature mind of youth,” they said. And even if the accounts of other adolescent killers—many of whom have been reformed behind bars—show that she is not capable of reforming, we assume that she cannot.”