The first woman to be executed in the U.S. in five years was put to death in Virginia Thursday night for arranging the killings of her husband and a stepson over a $250,000 insurance payment.
Teresa Lewis, 41, died by injection at 9:13 p.m. She became the first woman executed in Virginia in almost a century. Supporters and relatives of the victims watched her execution at Greensville Correctional Center.
Lewis enticed two men through sex, cash and a promised cut in an insurance policy to shoot the sleeping men in October 2002. Both triggermen were sentenced to life in prison, and one committed suicide in 2006.
"The just sentence of death has now been carried out," said Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in a statement released after the execution. "Our thoughts and prayers remain with the family and friends of Julian and C.J. Lewis.”
More than 7,300 appeals to stop the execution had been made to the governor in a state second only to Texas in the number of people it executes.
The U.S. Supreme Court and Gov. Bob McDonnell declined to intervene. All her legal appeals were exhausted, her attorney said.
The Lewis execution has stirred an unusual amount of attention in Virginia because of her gender, claims she lacked the intelligence to mastermind the killings and the post-conviction emergence of defense evidence that one of the triggermen manipulated her.
Lewis's supporters said she was a changed woman and pointed to testimonials from former prison chaplains and inmates that Lewis comforted and inspired other inmates with her faith and the hymns and country gospel tunes she sang at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women.
In a letter this month to McDonnell, the European Union asked the governor to commute her sentence to life, citing Lewis' mental capacity. Her lawyers have said testing shows Lewis is borderline mentally retarded.
The European Union's ambassador to the U.S. wrote that the EU "considers that the execution of people with mental disorders of all types is contrary to minimum standards of human rights ..."
Earlier this week, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused Western media of having a double standard in reporting on the Lewis execution.
He compared coverage of the Lewis case to the "heavy propaganda" campaign against the case of an Iranian woman who had been sentenced to be stoned to death for adultery.
"Meanwhile, nobody objects to the case of an American woman who is going to be executed," he was quoted as saying during a speech Monday to Islamic clerics and other figures in New York.
Richard Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center agreed that the death penalty is a human rights issue but said the Iranian president is "the wrong messenger."
"The United States is, of course, interested in human rights abuses," he said.
McDonnell said he had thoroughly reviewed court records and medical and psychological reports and found no compelling reason to grant clemency to Lewis. He noted she admitted her role in the slayings.
Lewis met Rodney Fuller and Matthew Shallenberger in a Wal-Mart store in Pittsylvania County and traded sex and money for weapons for the hired killing of her husband, Julian Clifton Lewis Jr. His son, Julian Lewis, entered the U.S. Army Reserve and had a $250,000 life insurance policy, naming his father the beneficiary.
Both men would have to die for Lewis to collect.
On the night before Halloween in 2002, Shallenberger and Fuller came in and shot both men several times with shotguns. As Julian lay bleeding, Lewis grabbed his pants and wallet and gave the men the $300 inside.
"After Lewis failed in her first attempt to have her husband Julian murdered, she let the two killers whom she had hired into the home she shared with her husband early in the morning of October 30, 2002," Cuccinelli said. "Julian’s son, C.J., was home for the weekend from his duty as an Army Reservist. Lewis stood by as the killers shot Julian and C.J. multiple times with 12-guage shotguns, killing C.J. instantly and leaving Julian to die a slow, horrific death. These were brutal, pitiless crimes committed for no other reason than greed."
Lewis's attorneys noted that Shallenberger later claimed he was the mastermind and duped Lewis to get some of the insurance money. Shallenberger committed suicide in prison in 2006.
Lewis's execution was the first of a woman in Virginia since 1912. Texas held the prior U.S. execution of a woman in 2005.