Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell said Friday evening that he will not spare the life of Teresa Lewis who is set to become the first woman executed in the state in nearly a century.
According to the Washington Post, on October 30, 2002, Matthew Shallenberger and Rodney Fuller, Lewis's con-conspirators, arrived at her Danville trailer. As she slipped out of bed, Shallenberger, who was Lewis's lover, opened fire on Julian Lewis, a Vietnam veteran who worked as an electrician at the nearby Dan River textile plant. Fuller shot C.J. Lewis, Julian's son, an Army reservist who was visiting.
Lewis is scheduled for execution on September 23, 2010. Lewis's supporters have argued that she does not deserve to die because she is borderline mentally retarded and was manipulated by a much smarter conspirator. They say it is unfair that Lewis was sentenced to death while the two men who fired the shots received life sentences.
The landmark case with regard to the death penalty and mental retardation originated out of Virginia, Atkins V. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002). Darryl Atkins was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. His attorneys successfully argued that executing the mentally retarded would violate the Eighth Amendment ban against cruel and unusually punishment. Ironically, Atkins case was remanded to Virginia state court where he was once again sentenced to death. His sentence was later reduced to life in prison following revelations of prosecutorial misconduct.
According to the Post, McDonnell said Lewis had admitted the "heinous crimes" and noted that no medical professional has concluded that she is mentally retarded under Virginia law. "I find no compelling reason to set aside the sentence that was imposed by the Circuit Court," McDonnell said.
McDonnell's denial of the clemency petition means that Lewis, a mother and grandmother, is likely to become the first woman executed in the United States since September 2005, when Frances Newton was killed by lethal injection in Texas for the shooting deaths of her husband and two young children. The Post reported that since 1900, 50 women have been executed across the country, according to the District-based Death Penalty Information Center. Eleven women have been executed since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976.
No woman has been executed in Virginia since 1912, when Virginia Christian, 17, was electrocuted for the murder of her employer, Ida Belote. The two fought after Belote accused Christian of stealing a gold locket, according to the Post and accounts at the time said.
To read more: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/17/AR2010091706699_pf.html
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