24th September, 2010
The first woman executed in the United States in five years was put to death in VirginiaÂ on Thursday for arranging the killings of her husband and a stepson over a $250,000Â insurance payment.
According to Associated Press, AP, Teresa Lewis, 41, died by injection at 9:13 p.m.Â 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 CorrectionalÂ Center in Jarratt.
Lewis enticed two men through sex, cash and a promised cut in an insurance policy toÂ shoot her husband, Julian Clifton Lewis Jr., and his son, Charles, as they slept inÂ 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 aÂ gurney with heavy leather straps.
Moments before her execution, Lewis asked if her husbandâ€™s daughter was near.
Kathy Clifton, Lewisâ€™ stepdaughter, was in an adjacent witness room blocked from theÂ inmateâ€™s view by a two-way mirror.
â€œI want Kathy to know that I love her and Iâ€™m very sorry,â€ Lewis said.
Then, as the drugs flowed into her body, her feet bobbed but she otherwise remainedÂ motionless. A guard lightly tapped her on the shoulder reassuringly as she slipped intoÂ death.
More than 7,300 appeals to stop the execution â€” the first of a woman in Virginia sinceÂ 1912 â€” had been made to the governor in a state second only to Texas in the number ofÂ people it executes.
The U.S. Supreme Court and Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell declined to intervene. All herÂ legal appeals were exhausted, her attorney said.
Texas held the most recent U.S. execution of a woman in 2005. Out of more than 1,200Â people put to death since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976,Â only 11 have been women.
The 41-year-old woman, who defence attorneys said was borderline mentally disabled, hadÂ inspired other inmates by singing Christian hymns in prison. Her fate also had drawnÂ appeals from the European Union, an indignant rebuke from Iran and the disgust ofÂ thousands of people.
The Lewis execution stirred an unusual amount of attention because of her gender, claimsÂ she lacked the intelligence to mastermind the killings and the post-conviction emergenceÂ of defence evidence that one of the triggermen manipulated her.
Lewisâ€™ supporters also said she was a changed woman. They pointed to testimonials fromÂ former prison chaplains and inmates that Lewis comforted and inspired other inmates withÂ her faith and the hymns and country gospel tunes she sang at the Fluvanna CorrectionalÂ Center for Women where she was long held.
In a letter this month to McDonnell, the European Union asked the governor to commute herÂ sentence to life, citing Lewisâ€™ mental capacity. Her lawyers have said testing showsÂ Lewis is borderline mentally retarded.
The European Unionâ€™s ambassador to the U.S. wrote that the EU â€œconsiders that theÂ execution of people with mental disorders of all types is contrary to minimum standardsÂ of human rights …â€
French Foreign Ministry spokesman Romain Nadal said in an online briefing Thursday itÂ â€œdeploredâ€ the rejection of Lewisâ€™ plea for clemency and the Supreme Courtâ€™s decision notÂ to hear her appeal.
Earlier this week, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused Western media of havingÂ a double standard in reporting on the Lewis execution.
He compared coverage of the Lewis case to the â€œheavy propagandaâ€ campaign against theÂ case of an Iranian woman who had been sentenced to be stoned to death for adultery.
â€œMeanwhile, nobody objects to the case of an American woman who is going to be executed,â€Â he was quoted as saying during a speech Monday to Islamic clerics and other figures inÂ New York.
Richard Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center agreed that the death penalty is aÂ human rights issue, but said the Iranian president is â€œthe wrong messenger.â€
â€œThe United States is, of course, interested in human rights abuses,â€ he said.
Hours before her execution, Lewis met with family, her spiritual adviser and supportersÂ at the Greensville Correctional Center.
Her spiritual adviser, the Rev. Julie Perry, stood sobbing as she later witnessed theÂ execution, clutching a religious book.
Throughout her life, a faith in God had been a seeming constant for Lewis â€” whether itÂ was the prayer with her husband or her ministry behind bars.
But by her own admission, Lewisâ€™ life has been marked by outrageous bouts of sex andÂ betrayal even as she hewed to the trappings of Christianity.
â€œI was doing drugs, stealing, lying and having several affairs during my marriages,â€Â Lewis wrote in a statement that was read at a prison religious service in August. â€œI wentÂ to church every Sunday, Friday and revivals but guess what? I didnâ€™t open my Bible atÂ home, only when I was at church.â€
Her father said she ran off to get married, then later abandoned her children and ran offÂ with her sisterâ€™s husband. Then she had an affair with her sisterâ€™s fiance while at theÂ same time having an affair with another man.
Lewisâ€™ life took a deadly turn after she married Julian, whom she met at a DanvilleÂ textile factory in 2000. Two years later, his son Charles entered the U.S. Army Reserve.Â When he was called for active duty he obtained a $250,000 life insurance policy, namingÂ 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.Â Lewis began an affair with Matthew Shallenberger and later had sex with the otherÂ triggerman, Rodney Fuller. She also arranged sex with Fuller and her daughter, who wasÂ 16, in a parking lot.
On the night before Halloween in 2002, after she prayed with her husband, Lewis got outÂ of bed, unlocked the door to their mobile home and put the coupleâ€™s pit bull in a bedroomÂ so the animal wouldnâ€™t interfere. Shallenberger and Fuller came in and shot both menÂ several times with the shotguns Lewis had bought for them.
On a grassy knoll beside the correctional center, those opposed to the executionÂ protested with signs and banners in the twilight Thursday. Critics said they wereÂ repulsed by Virginiaâ€™s killing of a woman.
â€œTonight the death machine exterminated the beautiful childlike and loving spirit ofÂ Teresa Lewis,â€ said the condemned womanâ€™s lawyer, James Rocap.