Woman Executed For Killing Husband

pmnews-placeholder

The first woman executed in the United States in five years was put to death in Virginia  on Thursday for arranging the killings of her husband and a stepson over a $250,000  insurance payment.

According to Associated Press, AP, Teresa Lewis, 41, died by injection at 9:13 p.m.  Thursday, authorities said.

She became the first woman executed in Virginia in nearly a century.

Supporters and relatives of the victims watched her execution at Greensville Correctional  Center in Jarratt.

Lewis enticed two men through sex, cash and a promised cut in an insurance policy to  shoot her husband, Julian Clifton Lewis Jr., and his son, Charles, as they slept in  October 2002.

Both triggermen were sentenced to life in prison and one committed suicide in 2006.

Lewis appeared fearful, her jaw clenched, as she was escorted into the death chamber.

She glanced tensely around at 14 assembled corrections officials before being bound to a  gurney with heavy leather straps.

Moments before her execution, Lewis asked if her husband’s daughter was near.

Kathy Clifton, Lewis’ stepdaughter, was in an adjacent witness room blocked from the  inmate’s view by a two-way mirror.

“I want Kathy to know that I love her and I’m very sorry,” Lewis said.

Then, as the drugs flowed into her body, her feet bobbed but she otherwise remained  motionless. A guard lightly tapped her on the shoulder reassuringly as she slipped into  death.

More than 7,300 appeals to stop the execution — the first of a woman in Virginia since  1912 — had been made to the governor in a state second only to Texas in the number of  people it executes.

The U.S. Supreme Court and Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell declined to intervene. All her  legal appeals were exhausted, her attorney said.

Texas held the most recent U.S. execution of a woman in 2005. Out of more than 1,200  people put to death since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976,  only 11 have been women.

The 41-year-old woman, who defence attorneys said was borderline mentally disabled, had  inspired other inmates by singing Christian hymns in prison. Her fate also had drawn  appeals from the European Union, an indignant rebuke from Iran and the disgust of  thousands of people.

The Lewis 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.

Lewis’ supporters also said she was a changed woman. They pointed to testimonials from  former prison chaplains and inmates that Lewis comforted and inspired other inmates with  her faith and the hymns and country gospel tunes she sang at the Fluvanna Correctional  Center for Women where she was long held.

In a letter this month to McDonnell, the European Union asked the governor to commute her  sentence to life, citing Lewis’ mental capacity. Her lawyers have said testing shows  Lewis is borderline mentally retarded.

The European Union’s ambassador to the U.S. wrote that the EU “considers that the  execution of people with mental disorders of all types is contrary to minimum standards  of human rights …”

French Foreign Ministry spokesman Romain Nadal said in an online briefing Thursday it  “deplored” the rejection of Lewis’ plea for clemency and the Supreme Court’s decision not  to hear her appeal.

Earlier this week, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused Western media of having  a double standard in reporting on the Lewis execution.

He compared coverage of the Lewis case to the “heavy propaganda” campaign against the  case of an Iranian woman who had been sentenced to be stoned to death for adultery.

“Meanwhile, nobody objects to the case of an American woman who is going to be executed,”  he was quoted as saying during a speech Monday to Islamic clerics and other figures in  New York.

Richard Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center agreed that the death penalty is a  human rights issue, but said the Iranian president is “the wrong messenger.”

“The United States is, of course, interested in human rights abuses,” he said.

Hours before her execution, Lewis met with family, her spiritual adviser and supporters  at the Greensville Correctional Center.

Her spiritual adviser, the Rev. Julie Perry, stood sobbing as she later witnessed the  execution, clutching a religious book.

Throughout her life, a faith in God had been a seeming constant for Lewis — whether it  was the prayer with her husband or her ministry behind bars.

But by her own admission, Lewis’ life has been marked by outrageous bouts of sex and  betrayal even as she hewed to the trappings of Christianity.

“I was doing drugs, stealing, lying and having several affairs during my marriages,”  Lewis wrote in a statement that was read at a prison religious service in August. “I went  to church every Sunday, Friday and revivals but guess what? I didn’t open my Bible at  home, only when I was at church.”

Her father said she ran off to get married, then later abandoned her children and ran off  with her sister’s husband. Then she had an affair with her sister’s fiance while at the  same time having an affair with another man.

Lewis’ life took a deadly turn after she married Julian, whom she met at a Danville  textile factory in 2000. 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 providing temptation for Teresa Lewis.

Both men would have to die for Lewis to receive the insurance payout.

She met at a Walmart with the two men who ultimately killed Julian Lewis and his son.  Lewis began an affair with Matthew Shallenberger and later had sex with the other  triggerman, Rodney Fuller. She also arranged sex with Fuller and her daughter, who was  16, in a parking lot.

On the night before Halloween in 2002, after she prayed with her husband, Lewis got out  of bed, unlocked the door to their mobile home and put the couple’s pit bull in a bedroom  so the animal wouldn’t interfere. Shallenberger and Fuller came in and shot both men  several times with the shotguns Lewis had bought for them.

On a grassy knoll beside the correctional center, those opposed to the execution  protested with signs and banners in the twilight Thursday. Critics said they were  repulsed by Virginia’s killing of a woman.

“Tonight the death machine exterminated the beautiful childlike and loving spirit of  Teresa Lewis,” said the condemned woman’s lawyer, James Rocap.