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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 December 2005, 22:42 GMT
Federal death sentence for woman
Lethal injection chamber
Johnson faces death by lethal injection
A federal judge in the United States has sentenced a woman to death for the first time in more than 50 years.

Angela Johnson was found guilty of involvement in the murder of five people in the state of Iowa in 1993. She says she is innocent.

Her former boyfriend, Dustin Honken, was sentenced to death by lethal injection in October after being found guilty of the murders.

The last time a woman was executed by a federal government was in 1953.

Judge 'troubled'

The jury in the Angela Johnson case recommended the death penalty earlier this year, and correspondents say that in such cases the judge has to accept the recommendation.

However, Judge Mark Bennett last week said he had reservations about the jury's verdict.

"I am troubled by the lack of certainty in the record concerning the precise involvement of Angela Johnson in these crimes," he said, the Associated Press news agency reports.

Johnson denies involvement in the killings, but said in a court statement that she had been manipulated by Honken into a life of crime.

"I regret I wasn't strong enough," she said.

The court heard that Honken killed the five victims to prevent two of them, former drugs dealers, from giving evidence against him.


The last woman to be executed on the ruling of a federal - as opposed to a state - court, was Bonnie Brown Heady, who was sent to the gas chamber in December, 1953 for murder.

In June that year, Ethel Rosenberg was electrocuted after being found guilty of espionage.

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