Grandmother to be executed by injection after appeal fails
Published 23/09/2010 | 05:00
A grandmother with an IQ of 72 will become the first woman to be executed in Virginia in nearly a century today after her final appeal was dismissed.
Teresa Lewis (41), was sentenced to death for hiring two men to shoot her husband and stepson so she could collect a $250,000(€186,000) insurance payout.
The two gunmen received life jail terms but Lewis was sentenced to die because she was said to be the "mastermind" behind the plot.
Death penalty abolitionists claim that her low IQ puts her in the "borderline range" of mental capability. They claimed her accomplices took advantage of her.
She had a "dependent personality disorder" and an addiction to prescription drugs.
In her final appeal, two of the three women on the US Supreme Court, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, voted to stop the execution but the court as a whole refused to intervene.
Bob McDonnell, the Virginia governor, refused clemency last week. Barring an unexpected last-minute reprieve, Lewis will be given a lethal injection at Greensville Correction Centre, nicknamed "Hellville", today.
In an interview with a local television station she sang gospel hymns and said she was "going back to Jesus". She said: "If I have to go home with Jesus, I know that's going to be the best thing.
"I don't think there's enough words to even begin to tell how sorry I am. I want people to know that you can be a good person and make the wrong choice."
The last execution of a woman in America was in 2005 when Frances Newton (40), died by lethal injection in Texas for the murder of her family. Virginia last executed a woman in 1912.
Of more than 1,200 executions since capital punishment was reinstated in the US in 1976, only 11 have been women.
Lewis pleaded guilty in May 2003 to persuading Matthew Shallenberger and Rodney Fuller, to shoot her husband, Julian Lewis (51), and her stepson, Charles Lewis (25).
She began an affair with Shallenberger (22), and encouraged her 16-year-old daughter to get together with Fuller, who was 19.
Her lawyer, James E Rocap, claimed Shallenberger, who had an IQ of 113, duped Lewis "into believing he loved her so that he could achieve his own selfish goals". Before killing himself in 2006, Shallenberger wrote that the plot was "entirely" his idea.