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Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Is Teresa Lewis being executed because she's a woman?

While in a heartless move, the Governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell, has already denied clemency to Teresa Lewis, you can still register a message of protest against her scheduled execution here:

Is it because she's a woman that double killer is to be executed by lethal injection?

Facing death: Teresa Lewis, considered to be borderline mentally-retarded, will be executed on Thursday if her latest appeal fails
Facing death: Teresa Lewis, considered to be borderline mentally-retarded, will be executed on Thursday if her latest appeal fails
Barring a last minute stay from the U.S. Supreme Court, at 9pm on Thursday, Teresa Lewis will be led into the state death chamber in L building at Greensville Correction Centre, Virginia  -  a prison nicknamed Hellville.
There, having chosen lethal injection over the electric chair, the 41-year-old grandmother will be given a fatal cocktail of drugs and her death will be watched by the regulation minimum of six independent witnesses.
She will be the first woman executed in the U.S. for five years, and the first in Virginia for almost a century.
Her case has shocked a country already accustomed to the arbitrary nature of its death penalty. What has particularly appalled protesters is that Lewis appears to have been singled out for the death penalty because she is a woman.
Furthermore, with an IQ of 72, she is considered to be borderline mentally-retarded. Friends say she is barely capable of buying food at the shop.
She is being executed for her part in a double murder in which her two co-conspirators  -  both men and the individuals who actually carried out the fatal shootings  -  have escaped with life sentences in jail.
Requests for her punishment to be commuted to life in prison have come from thousands including mental health groups, the EU and author John Grisham.
Lewis's best hope of avoiding execution evaporated on Friday night when Robert McDonnell, Virginia's governor and a strong advocate of the death penalty, refused clemency.
He rejected what defence lawyers saw as compelling evidence about her feeble mental capabilities.
Isolated segregation: Teresa Lewis has been held at the Fluvanna Correctional Facility for Women since 2003 after receiving the death sentence
Isolated segregation: Teresa Lewis has been held at the Fluvanna Correctional Facility for Women since 2003 after receiving the death sentence
The defence lawyers claimed her learning difficulties undermined prosecutors' claims that she was the mastermind of the murders eight years ago of her husband and stepson.
Death penalty opponents say Lewis's case is particularly alarming because the two men who actually admitted shooting dead the victims as they slept in
their trailer home were allowed to live  -  they were jailed for life without the possibility of parole.
A psychologist has since assessed Lewis's IQ as 72, just over the 70 score that denotes someone as mentally retarded and which would exempt her from the death penalty. Her lawyers have also said Lewis was addicted to prescription drugs at the time of the crime and has been diagnosed with a dependent personality disorder which meant she was easily led by others.
She met her two conspirators, Matthew Shallenberger and Rodney Fuller, at a WalMart store.
Lewis and Shallenberger began an affair and the trio hatched a plan to kill her husband, Julian, and her stepson, CJ. They intended to share the money she would receive from her husband's estate and her stepson's $250,000 life insurance.
Just after midnight on October 30, 2002, the two men slipped quietly through a backdoor that Lewis had left unlocked into a trailer home in Pittsylvania County where the family of three were sleeping.
Armed with shotguns, they woke up Lewis and told her to leave her bedroom before Shallenberger shot her husband several times.
Fuller then went and shot CJ, an army reservist, five times and the pair fled the trailer, having taken the money from Julian's wallet.
Lewis rang the police 45 minutes later to report the shootings and officers arrived to find
her husband still alive.
'My wife knows who done this to me,' he told them before dying.
Despite initial denials, she soon admitted the 'murder-for-hire' plot, saying she had given her coaccused $1,200 to buy guns and ammunition.
On the advice of her lawyers, who predicted the judge would be lenient, Lewis waived the right to a trial and pleaded guilty to seven charges including two of 'murder for hire'.
Prosecutors struck a deal with Fuller to recommend a life sentence for him in exchange for cooperating, prompting Judge Charles Strauss to give the other gunman the same punishment on the grounds of fairness.
However, there was no leniency for Lewis whom he branded the 'the head of this serpent' in the murder plot. Her lawyers have since put forward various arguments for a reduction in her sentence, none of which have proved persuasive to a state which is now second only to Texas in the number of criminals it executes.
They said her judgment had been addled by her addiction to prescription drugs  -  more than 600 pills a month  -  which she started taking to deal with severe physical pain and the death of her mother.
The lawyers also provided evidence of her low mental abilities, with friends describing her as childlike and unable to manage finances or buy more than a day's groceries at a time.
Execution chamber: Lewis will be strapped down and given a lethal injection
Execution chamber: Lewis will be strapped down and given a lethal injection
Her 'dependent personality disorder'  -  attested to by three different psychologists  -  not only made it difficult for her to carry out simple daily tasks without help but also made her vulnerable to being dominated by stronger men, such as Shallenberger.
Finally the defence produced a letter which Shallenberger wrote from prison to a former girlfriend in 2003 claiming he had deliberately manipulated Lewis into going along with the plan to kill her husband and stepson.
With dreams of eventually becoming a major criminal in New York, Shal lenberger described Lewis as 'exactly what I was looking for' - a dupe he could use to raise money to establish himself as a drug dealer.
Three years later, he committed suicide in prison. Prosecutors dismissed the evidence as manufactured.
Ultimately, Lewis did not prove slow-witted enough for governor McDonnell.
In his judgment, he noted that she 'does not deny that she committed these heinous crimes' and that 'after numerous evaluations, no medical professional has concluded that Teresa Lewis meets the medical or statutory definition of mentally retarded'. Lawyer
Richard Dieter, executive of the Death Penalty Information Centre, a Washington research group which opposes capital punishment, predicted that Lewis's execution would leave a 'bad taste with a lot of people who even support the death penalty'.
He added that he was convinced she would not have been given the death penalty had she been sentenced by a jury.
Lewis is due to die on Thursday by lethal injection at the Greensville Correction Centre in the rural Virginia town of Jarratt.
The Supreme Court can issue a stay of execution while it considers defence claims that, given her low IQ, Lewis's execution would be unconstitutionally 'cruel and unusual'.
However, the court is inundated wi th intervent ion requests and Lewis's supporters are not hopeful.
Lewis, whose only previous criminal offence was for forging a prescription, has reportedly proved a model inmate in prison and has found God.
'I'm a little nervous... I'm also scared. But I am peaceful because I've got Jesus with me,' she told CNN shortly before her appeal for clemency was denied.
Mr Dieter said yesterday that, far from Lewis's gender encouraging the court's leniency, it had actually worked against her.
He argued that so few women are involved in more heinous murders that, when they are, they cause greater offence than if they had been men.
'Virginia's attorney general really pushed the fact that she had committed adultery with a co-defendant and that she was somehow dishonoured and should be looked down upon,' he said, also noting the peculiar language of the judge in describing her as the head of the serpent.
'When women cross a certain line and are seen as going outside their societal role, they are considered particularly evil and dangerous,' he said.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1313614/Is-Teresa-Lewiss-woman-shes-executed-lethal-injection.html#ixzz10AYwuI91

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