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Teresa Lewis

Virginia execution goes ahead despite international protests

compiled from various sources
published: 4WardEver UK – October 2010

Any news updates on this case will be listed at the foot of this item

Teresa Lewis, a grandmother convicted of a double murder, became the first woman in nearly a century to be executed in the state of Virginia after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to block the execution.

More than 7,300 appeals to stop the execution had been made to the governor in a state second only to Texas in the number of people it executes. But despite the actions of campaigners and sympathisers around the world, she was put to death by lethal injection on 24th September 2010.

Lewis’ life took a deadly turn after she married Julian Lewis. Two years later, his son Charles entered the U.S. Army Reserve. When he was called for active duty he obtained a $250,000 life insurance policy, naming his father the beneficiary and, it was said, providing temptation for Teresa Lewis.

She had admitted to her role in slaying her husband and stepson for money. That prompted the judge in the 2003 proceedings to call her “the head of this serpent” in a plot that also involved two gunmen, who had agreed to sex and cash in exchange for the murders. Lewis pleaded guilty in May 2003 to two counts of capital murder for hiring the slayings of her husband Julian Lewis and her stepson, Charles Lewis.

Her execution stirred an unusual amount of attention because of her gender, claims she lacked the intelligence to mastermind the killings and the post-conviction emergence of defence evidence that one of the triggermen manipulated her. “Nobody questions her guilt in this case. It’s just whether or not she’s a sympathetic figure,” says David Muhlhausen, a senior policy analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington.

Many death-row critics speaking up for Lewis say that they’re calling for a commutation not because she’s a woman, but because of the “injustice” of the case itself, in which the actual killers got life sentences and the admitted plotter received the death penalty.

Stories had emerged that one of the gunmen claimed he manipulated Lewis, who had a history of mental instability, in order to dupe her into believing he loved her so that he could achieve his own selfish goals. The gunmen, Matthew Shallenberger and Rodney Fuller, were sentenced to life terms. Shallenberger committed suicide whilst in prison in 2006.

With Lewis’s IQ measured at just 72, both her legal team and death penalty opponents had suggested it is wrong to execute her and wrong to think she is likely to have been the driving force behind a plot. Her legal team accuses Shallenberger of being the mastermind and of manipulating Lewis, with whom he had an affair.

It had been argued that Teresa’s documented level of intellectual functioning, cognition and judgment make it far more likely that she was led into the scheme … and not vice versa,” writes human rights activist Bianca Jagger in an appeal to Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) on The Huffington Post website.

Out of more than 1,200 executions since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976, only 11 women have been executed. Of the more than 3,200 inmates on death row nationwide, 53 are women.

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Follow-up News:

Virginia executes its first woman since 1912 as Teresa Lewis dies by lethal injection amid international outcry
24 September 2010

Teresa Lewis, mentally disabled woman, executed in Virginia amid outcry
23 September 2010

Teresa Lewis: the face of gender differences on death row
23 September 2010

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