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July 31, 2010

Will Virginia go forward with first US execution of a woman in five years?

As detailed in this local press report, which is headlined "Execution date set for Va. woman in Pittsylvania slayings," Virginia is now on track to execute a female murderer this September.  Here are the basics:

Teresa Wilson Lewis would be the first woman put to death in Virginia in almost a century if her execution, set yesterday for Sept. 23, is carried out.

Lewis, 41, was sentenced to death for persuading two men, with sex and promises of money, to kill her husband, Julian Clifton Lewis Jr., and her stepson, Charles J. Lewis.  The two were murdered in their Pittsylvania County trailer the night of Oct. 30, 2002.

Matthew Shallenberger and Rodney Fuller were sentenced to life in prison for shooting the men in their beds.  Authorities said Lewis was the mastermind and that the three were to share in the proceeds from her stepson's life-insurance policy and her husband's estate.

After Pittsylvania County Circuit Judge Charles Strauss set her execution date, her lawyer, James R. Rocap III, said yesterday that he plans to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to consider her case, seek a stay of execution, and file a clemency petition with Gov. Bob McDonnell.

"This sentence is based upon just a completely incorrect, factual assumption that somehow she was the mastermind of this," he said. Rocap contends that Shallenberger was the mastermind. Shallenberger committed suicide in 2006 while an inmate at Wallens Ridge State Prison.

Rocap said Lewis has a personality disorder, low intelligence and a history of drug addiction and that since she entered prison, Lewis has developed a "deep faith and deep remorse for the crimes."

"The governor will be the only person who has had an opportunity to consider evidence . . . that the actual killer admitted that Teresa was not in fact the person who planned the murders and that he boasted about using Teresa to get Julian's money," Rocap said. ...

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 50 women have been executed in the U.S. since 1900 and 11 since 1976. The most recent was in Texas five years ago....

Virginia has executed 107 men since 1976, including two this year.

As regular readers may recall, another condemned female offender scheduled to be executed this fall in Tennessee got off death row earlier this month when she received clemency from Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen (details here).  Anyone wish to predict whether Virgnia will follow its neighbor's lead?

July 31, 2010 at 03:00 PM | Permalink


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Murder for hire, combined with a pecuniary interest in the victims' deaths, with no spousal abuse alleged. I sincerely doubt McDonnell will jump at a chance to spare this one.

This woman's clemency petition is almost identical to every one filed on behalf of every inmate that has no claim to factual innocence or mental retardation. If McDonnell grants this paint-by-numbers petition, it could only be because the defendant is a woman--and that in and of itself should cause us some concern.

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