USA: Call for clemency in Teresa Lewis death penalty case
Does Virginia really want to be responsible for judicially killing a woman assessed as ‘borderline mentally retarded’? - Kate Allen
Ahead of tomorrow’s scheduled execution of a woman with “borderline mental retardation” in Virginia, USA, Amnesty International is calling on the state governor Robert McDonnell to reverse an earlier decision denying Ms Lewis clemency.
Teresa Lewis, 41, was sentenced to death in 2003 for playing what the judge described as a “mastermind” role in the 2002 murder of her husband Julian Lewis and stepson Charles Lewis. The prosecution case against Ms Lewis was that she arranged for two other men - Matthew Shallenberger and Rodney Fuller - to kill the victims for the insurance proceeds.
In the event, neither of these men was sentenced to death. Prosecutors agreed that Fuller should receive a life sentence in return for a guilty plea and his cooperation, and the judge said he could not “in good conscience” sentence Shallenberger to a harsher sentence than Fuller’s.
Teresa Lewis, however, was described as the “mastermind” behind the murders and sentenced to death. Ms Lewis, who had pleaded guilty, had been assessed by a psychologist ahead of her plea as “borderline retarded” - having an IQ score of 72; a second psychologist has scored it at 70. An IQ of 70 or below is an indicator of possible mental retardation. She has also been assessed as having a passive dependent personality disturbance and an addiction to painkillers before the crimes, further calling into question her ability to mastermind the murders. There are also claims that Shallenberger has since admitted that he orchestrated the killings, manipulating the highly dependent Lewis.
For weeks Amnesty has been calling on Governor McDonnell to grant clemency in the case (see http://bit.ly/aKj1kC), yet on 17 September McDonnell announced that he had declined to intervene in the case. Amnesty is urging Mr McDonnell to reverse this decision.
Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:
“We oppose the death penalty in all cases but even supporters of capital punishment will be deeply troubled by the prospect of a woman like Teresa Lewis being executed.
“Does Virginia really want to be responsible for judicially killing a woman assessed as ‘borderline mentally retarded’
“Time is running out. Governor McDonnell should step in before it’s too late.”
If Teresa Lewis’ execution goes ahead it will be the 39th execution in the USA this year and the third in Virginia. Since resuming judicial killing in 1977, the USA has carried out 1,226 executions, only 1% of which (11 people) have been Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights.
The last woman put to death in Virginia was Virginia Christian, who was killed in the state’s electric chair on 11 August 1912 for a murder committed when she was 17 years old. The last woman put to death in the USA was Frances Newton in Texas in September 2005.