(Adds quote from exec director of info center)
By Corrie MacLaggan
AUSTIN, Texas, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Kimberly McCarthy is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection in Texas on Tuesday, the first woman to be put to death in the United States in more than two years, for the stabbing murder of her neighbor in 1997.
Women are rarely executed in the United States. Only 12 female inmates were put to death since capital punishment was reinstated by the Supreme Court in 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
The last woman executed was Teresa Lewis in Virginia on Sept. 23, 2010, the information center said.
"Although women commit about 10 percent of murders, capital cases also require some aggravating factor like rape, robbery, or physical abuse," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the information center, adding that women usually have not committed a long list of prior felonies.
"It's unclear whether jurors or prosecutors may be more lenient in potential prosecutions of women, since there are relatively few," said Dieter.
McCarthy, 51, was convicted of entering the Lancaster, Texas home of her 71-year-old neighbor, Dorothy Booth, on July 21, 1997, under the pretense of borrowing some sugar. She then stabbed Booth five times, according to the Texas attorney general's summary of the case.
She also cut off Booth's left ring finger in order to take her diamond ring, which she later pawned.
McCarthy also was believed to be responsible for the murders of two other elderly women, one using a meat tenderizer as a weapon and another using a claw hammer, according to the Attorney General's summary.
McCarthy was found guilty in 1998 by a Dallas County jury of murdering Booth and sentenced to death. Her conviction was overturned by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in 2001 because no attorney was present when she was questioned after the crime even though she had requested a lawyer, court documents show. She was tried a second time in 2002, was again found guilty by a Dallas County jury, and again sentenced to death.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in 2004 agreed with the second conviction.
McCarthy would be the second person executed in the United States so far this year. Forty-three inmates were put to death in 2012. (Reporting by Corrie MacLaggan; Writing by Greg McCune; Editing by Bernard Orr)