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Teresa Lewis's execution and the reaction to women on death row

Tersea Lewis
(newsPRos/AP

When Paul Warner Powell died, an article appeared on the front page of The Washington Post. When Darick Walker died, an article appeared on page B5 in the Post.

Powell murdered one woman, raped another and was executed in the electric chair in March. Walker killed two men in premeditated murders. He died by injection in May. Both were executed in Virginia.

Virginia death row inmate Teresa Lewis did not commit any murders with her own hands. But she has appeared 29 times on the Post's website in the last 60 days. She has been a Google trending topic on the web.

Best-selling author John Grisham has called her execution unjust. The European Union asked the Virginia governor to commute her sentence to life. Bianca Jagger asked for clemency. Even Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad weighed in on Lewis, accusing the western media of having a double standard in reporting Lewis' execution, compared to the coverage of a woman in Iran who was sentenced to be stoned to death for adultery.

Walker, Powell and Lewis all were convicted of murder. All three were sentenced to die in Virginia. Why then has there been such a vast difference in response to their executions?

Lewis, 41, was condemned to death for plotting the 2002 killings of her husband Julian Lewis and his son, Charles "C.J." Lewis, to collect insurance money. She died by lethal injection at 9 EST tonight. The two men she conspired with to commit the killings were sentenced to life imprisonment.

Lewis' case has garnered attention in part because she did not pull the triggers that killed the two men and because her low IQ misses the mark by two points that would exempt her from death. Anyone with less than a 70 IQ cannot be executed; Lewis has an IQ of 72. But above all, Lewis's case has drawn attention because women on death row are a rarity.

Out of 3,261 people on death row in the United States, only 61 are women. Since 1976, the year the death penalty was reinstated in the U.S., there have been 1,226 executions. Lewis became only the 12th woman, and the first executed in Virginia this century.

It is not just that women commit fewer murders. Fewer receive the death penalty and even fewer are actually executed. According to the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center, women account for 10 percent of murder arrests, but only one percent of executions.

Richard Dieter, of the Death Penalty Information Center, said that though women are more rarely given the death penalty, their gender can be a detriment in their cases. "When their crime seems to cross a certain line of expectation for women, they are treated more harshly," he said in a phone interview. He thinks that in order to justify a women's execution, prosecutors and judges must characterize the killer as "beyond belief and beyond the pale."

"You see these epitaphs, 'monster...' 'head of the serpent..." he said.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) declined to stay Lewis' execution. He said he did not take her gender into consideration.

What do you think? Do women get different treatment on death row? Why?

By Melissa Bell  | September 23, 2010; 5:30 PM ET
Categories:  The Daily Catch  
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Comments

I am heartbroken. It is wrong to kill. That is what we say. That is what the state/government says. And yet, there is still state-sanctioned killing in the United States.

Posted by: glmrtndrthy | September 23, 2010 8:37 PM | Report abuse

Why is it that the states with high capital punishment rates are also the rednecky ones? Coincidence? NOT!

Posted by: CharlieM57 | September 23, 2010 9:42 PM | Report abuse

I am glad she redeemed her life while in prison. However, her husband and stepson will never see the light of another day. Why is it so difficult for many to wrap their minds around justice? As for rednecky...follow the crimes rates in DC, Michican, New Jersey, New York, LA,etc.

Posted by: askforjim | September 23, 2010 9:49 PM | Report abuse

We Americans are such barbarians at times.

Posted by: hobig | September 23, 2010 9:57 PM | Report abuse

What this woman did was terrible; no doubt. I don't see why, however, the triggermen who actually committed the crime were given lesser sentences and I certainly can't comprehend that the monster who bludgeoned four people to death, admitting that he had always wanted to kill someone, was just given a life sentence in Virginia...Perhaps the judge didn't like it that Teresa Lewis was involved with African American men. Maybe she wasn't glamorous enough to spare. Who knows? He was certainly venomous enough in his denunciation of her. A life sentence would have been more just in this case.

Posted by: Bluejay3 | September 23, 2010 10:04 PM | Report abuse

I am only wondering if the conspirators that she hired to kill her husband and the stepson were sentenced to life in prison, why she is the only one executed? This is a legal question that deserves an answer!

Posted by: abukar12 | September 23, 2010 10:13 PM | Report abuse

Let me see if I have this right. The mastermind of this crime had an IQ of 72, two points lower and she could not have been executed. The two men who did the actual killings received life sentences and one of them claims he conned her into this crime so he could get the insurance money. I feel there was a breakdown in the use of common sense which led to this unwarranted execution

Posted by: shadenfreude | September 23, 2010 10:19 PM | Report abuse

Barbaric! People love it here in Texas. I wish the lions v. the christians would become a sport again so we could rid of some of these bloodthirsty holy-rollers.

Posted by: wmselmi | September 23, 2010 10:23 PM | Report abuse

I truly felt that she should have been given a life sentences what she did was wrong but why were the two men given a life sentences from the gov. Mcdonnell to those who carry out the execution will have to answer to the one has the power to give life. a life was taken and you have the nerve walk in church with bible in your hand praising God. may God have mercy on your soul.

Posted by: eugenehogan | September 23, 2010 11:10 PM | Report abuse

"Lewis had a low I.Q. and the two triggermen got life sentences, not the death penalty."


Our so-called "justice system" "triumphs again." :(

This is yet one more example of the uneveness and lack of uniform justice being passed off onto those charged with crimes. No doubt there have even been a few innocent folks who were framed and executed. The state should not be entrusted with the job of "playing God." So what would they be able to do if her co-defendant presented proof now that she had been coerced by them or manipulated due to her low IQ?

Posted by: tncdel | September 23, 2010 11:14 PM | Report abuse

"Lewis had a low I.Q. and the two triggermen got life sentences, not the death penalty."


Our so-called "justice system" "triumphs again." :(

This is yet one more example of the uneveness and lack of uniform justice being passed off onto those charged with crimes. No doubt there have even been a few innocent folks who were framed and executed. The state should not be entrusted with the job of "playing God." So what would they be able to do if her co-defendant presented proof now that she had been coerced by them or manipulated due to her low IQ?

Posted by: tncdel | September 23, 2010 11:16 PM | Report abuse

Retarded or not, she was responsible for the deaths of two of her own family members, those she is entrusted to protect. Good Riddance to bad garbage.

Posted by: severdnerv | September 23, 2010 11:36 PM | Report abuse

Fry the Bi#@#%E^ch.

hs

Posted by: henrysands09 | September 23, 2010 11:38 PM | Report abuse

The state always wins no matter what. The criminal justice system is set up so that those who the government perceive as a threat to the status quot are convicted. John Gotti is a perfect example. He was a ruthless man who gave the order to have his enemies, however if it were not for Sammy the Bull Gravano Gotti would have had to do the dirty work himself. Teresa Lewis did not kill her husband and step son. The actual killers were given less harsh sentences so that the Prosecuting attorney could convict a woman by all admission had a low IQ,and had reasonable doubt in her favor. Now she is dead and gone and the actual killers are still alive to be supported on the dime of the state. I would even chance to bet they are laughing knowing that they could have been at the end of a needle and a patsy in the form of Teresa Lewis got the short end of the stick. The death penalty in our nation is notoriously flawed in that it is used to punish those who cannot afford ample council, those who are minorities, and women. If Mrs Lewis had been a wealthy woman with connections in government she would not have been convicted. This is why the death penalty will never work. It only gives a false sense of justice while those who actually deserve to die get a free pass, and thumb their nose at the victims, the government and the community in general. I would pray for this poor woman's soul and those who think that the death penalty is going to reduce crime or that it is an appropriate punishment when nine times out of ten the actual person who commits the crime can just point the finger at someone and make a deal in exchange for their life. There are women on death row all across America whose trials were mismanaged, and sensationalized for the purposde to make the public feel safe when all along justice has not been found. There is a woman in Arizona on Death Row for killing her son and the evidence shows that she was railroaded by the detective who hid evidence, violated protocol by not recording her interrogation, and that the actual suspect who more than likely did this got a lesser sentence for testifying against her. Now he is close to parole and may get out one day while this lady will be executed even though the evidence shows that she was telling the truth and that she had noting to do with her sons murder. Don king put it best "Only in America"

Posted by: SneedRock | September 23, 2010 11:45 PM | Report abuse

This death is just one more reason to detest it that a President preaches others about "human rights", while he presides over a country that respects the very basic foundation of human rights, namely LIFE so little that it can be thrown away at the drop of a hat, be it in "death prisons" (what's the difference to 'death camps' then?) or abortion cleanics (for "baby cleansing", like 'ethnic or gender cleansing').
It is this spitting on human rights, at home as abroad (in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, etc, etc.) which makes this country not really better than all the others on whom they like to look down for their "low records" in respect for human rights. It is this what shows them as utter hypocrites - not the killing of a woman.
If she was a murderess, she is not better than a murderer and should not get any advantage from that. So, crying about that is also utter hypocrisy: Equality also means the same law for all.
That the law is bad, that should be reason for protest - not that women should have more safety from consequences than others. And this is another one of the obscenities in a country that claims to promote equality: Are women "more equal" (to quote 'Animal Farm') than men? Obviously, they are, especially in US criminal
(in)justice.
Women are not less inclined to crime than men, but just as bad - and just as good as men in refraining from it. That is why I welcomed Barbara Ehrenreich's change of mind when she saw the photos of the US women enslaving Arab men in Abu Ghraib: 'After this, we have to rethink what we define as Feminism'.
It is not that women commit fewer crimes - it's only that they have great advantages when it comes to the consequences:
A. police won't look for them, unless they must, because there is no man available;
B. for a woman, 150% proof of guilt is needed for aconviction - for a man? Not much;
C. a woman can get mitigation for all sorts of psycho-babbles like PMT, etc - a man is a rock, without weaknesses (ha ha);
D. even when it comes to a death sentence (which is very rare for a woman), her chances of sentence-commutation are far over 90% - for a man? Not much.
E. even if things look bleak, a women always gets sympathy - and strong political support: think of Andrea Yates who chased, caught, and drowned her five children - is that not planful murder? No, it's a woman's instabililty. Would a man get that excuse? Never; think of that kiler of nine men, Wornuos - all women's rights organisations wanted her pardoned - presumably all was self-defense.
And even when the victim is a good and innocent bloke like Andy Warhol - the feminist author of 'SCUM Manifesto', a program for the extermination of men, who fired 3 bullets into him (which he survived but which still made him die prematurely) was defended by Betty Friedan and oher leaders of the women's movement as "a forefighter of women's rights" - and received only a 3 years sentence, one for every bullet.
No, that is neither Equality nor right

Posted by: jboost45 | September 24, 2010 12:12 AM | Report abuse

Just to give my little opinion from Europe, it is sometimes hard to understand overseas how a modern and advanced nation like the US can give such a shameless show of it's own justice. I will not comment again the many shocking facts that make Theresa Lewis' punishment a real non-sense. I am just wondring when the American people will finally realize that killing everyone they dislike is not a solution. Aftter all even Walt Disney has recently understood that a happy end is not necessarily linked to the death of the bad character.
Nearly all democratic nations in the world have abolished death penalty. They have put the accent on prevention rather than repression. How can you sell weapons without any control, abandon desperate slices of your people without any minimal social security and hope this is not going to end up in robberies?
For sure, we have our own problems and inconsitencies in the various European systems, but believe me, it is a good feeling to know that you live in a country where barbaric behaviours are not accepted, not even from the government!

Posted by: foreign_opinion | September 24, 2010 12:18 AM | Report abuse

Just to give my little opinion from Europe, it is sometimes hard to understand overseas how a modern and advanced nation like the US can give such a shameless show of it's own justice. I will not comment again the many shocking facts that make Theresa Lewis' punishment a real non-sense. I am just wondring when the American people will finally realize that killing everyone they dislike is not a solution. Aftter all even Walt Disney has recently understood that a happy end is not necessarily linked to the death of the bad character.
Nearly all democratic nations in the world have abolished death penalty. They have put the accent on prevention rather than repression. How can you sell weapons without any control, abandon desperate slices of your people without any minimal social security and hope this is not going to end up in robberies?
For sure, we have our own problems and inconsitencies in the various European systems, but believe me, it is a good feeling to know that you live in a country where barbaric behaviours are not accepted, not even from the government!

Posted by: foreign_opinion | September 24, 2010 3:05 AM | Report abuse

SHAME!!!!
stop killing people. You put yourself in the same side of Iran. But you Americans are even worst because tou name yourself christians...

Posted by: ABATTILO | September 24, 2010 3:41 AM | Report abuse

In contrast to some commenters, I do not believe that we "kill those whom we dislike".

We execute those who choose to break the laws and show no responsibility to our society.

We all know what happens to you if you kill someone else.

Why did these people choose to break the law in the first place?

Posted by: mikecapitolhill | September 24, 2010 5:18 AM | Report abuse

I love how the Liberals champion the criminal and rail at the nation. And you can't figure out why you are tumbling in the polls and we are taking the nation back from you idiots?

Let's see, the talking point among the Left seems to be that the murdering woman "had a low IQ". How convenient. So, to get away with murder, all one must do is score low on a state mandated "IQ test" eh? SWEET!

I bet you would sing a different tune if someone murdered one of your loved ones.

Why do women or anyone else think that women rate special "rights"? They want it both ways. They want all the perks of being able to hide behind being "female" when it suits them or they need the cover and yet demand "equal" standing. BS. Women don't want "equal" rights, they want superior rights.

Well ladies, get used to it. This is what TRUE equal rights and equal treatment looks like.

Women's lib has taught us that there is NOTHING special about women. They are just a slab of meat like any other sadsack roaming the planet.

No special treatment for women whatsoever. No courtesy. No holding doors. Nothing. Treat them exactly like a man. After all, isn't that what they demand?

You don't get it both ways. And the truth is - why should you?

Posted by: C0rrupt_0_Crats | September 24, 2010 5:50 AM | Report abuse

This non-story belongs back between the Classifieds and the Obits, no pun intended.

Posted by: CarlLaFong | September 24, 2010 6:39 AM | Report abuse

No special treatment for women whatsoever. No courtesy. No holding doors. Nothing. Treat them exactly like a man. After all, isn't that what they demand? Posted by: C0rrupt_0_Crats |

100% correctomundo!!
Lewis's lawyers knew that she probably would have been sentenced to death by a jury so they elected to plead guilty thinking that the judge would some how feel sorry for her because she was a woman or maybe do the same with her as he did with the other defendants and givew her life....wrong!! Maybe the judge's wife pissed him off the night before and he wasnt in a good mood and wasnt. Fact is they gambled and lost. All of this belly aching, crying and over examination is much ado about nothing. No, the death penalty does not prevent murders from happening in states that actually use it, but you can be damn sure that those who commit murders will pay for it (at least in VA and TX). Cudos to VA and TX for sticking and lighting them up!

Posted by: usc932000 | September 24, 2010 7:41 AM | Report abuse

So much for equal justice under the law, and our religious-conservative governor, Bob McDonnell. What kind of "Christian" supports legislation expanding the death penalty in a state that's already a leader in executions?

Posted by: jprice2 | September 24, 2010 7:55 AM | Report abuse

Now she is dead and gone and the actual killers are still alive to be supported on the dime of the state. I would even chance to bet they are laughing knowing that they could have been at the end of a needle and a patsy in the form of Teresa Lewis got the short end of the stick. Posted by: SneedRock

Sorry Sneed, but there is only 1 Killer left. The other ringleader (Lewis's BF) killed himself in prison.

Posted by: usc932000 | September 24, 2010 8:16 AM | Report abuse

Well, women want to be equal! There it is!

Posted by: Special_One40 | September 24, 2010 8:23 AM | Report abuse

Yeah , she was so borderline retarded but able to figure out a murder for insurance money scheme. Come on you bleeding heart liberals, when will you ever stop being snowed. She was smart enough to plan this out but now all of a sudden she's retarded? I wouldn't want any liberal on my jury if I were murdered. It would just be a waste of the courts time.

Posted by: lottaaction | September 24, 2010 8:23 AM | Report abuse

I'm just glad that Lewis's husband stayed alive long enough to identify her as his killer. Had he not done that she would have gotten off free as a bird. Too bad many fail to realize this fact and ALL the facts of the case.

Posted by: usc932000 | September 24, 2010 8:24 AM | Report abuse

So, the 2 people who actually murdered her husband get life, but she gets the needle? Now, what's wrong with this story?

Posted by: PublicEnemy1 | September 24, 2010 9:41 AM | Report abuse

Every time I read about the death penalty in the USA-I feel angry! This is a country of human rights of "Christian values"?? Where are the "Right to Lifers"? God does not make distinctions-.Hippocrates!

If a person is a true threat to his community or country ie a remorseless serial killer-then "maybe" the death penalty 'might' make sense-but a woman with a low IQ, who "supposedly" masterminded the killing of her husband and step son? The president of Iran is correct in some regard-How can the US be judgemental of Iran's laws when your own laws are equally barbaric?-Americans lose all international credibility! Why is it that Canada with one 10th the population has almost 1000 times fewer number of murders? We have NO death penalty...I guess the death penalty must be working for you in the USA, eh?

On another note-FREE the WEST MEMPHIS THREE!

Send your politicians a strong message and do not vote back in those that agree with the death penalty!!!

Posted by: malachy100 | September 24, 2010 10:11 AM | Report abuse

GOD's Commandments
You Shall Not Kill
You Shall Not Murder

Posted by: pattikakes10 | September 24, 2010 10:35 AM | Report abuse

"Even Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad weighed in on Lewis, accusing the western media of having a double standard in reporting Lewis' execution, compared to the coverage of a woman in Iran who was sentenced to be stoned to death for adultery."


- HEY, AHMADINEJERK!!!! GO STICK YOUR HEAD IN THE TOILET!!!!

Posted by: KRASHKOWALSKI | September 24, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

I researched past inmates that have been put to death in this country and could not find one that had not actually committed the murder - there have been no other "conspiracy to commit murder" executions which makes me wonder how this could happen. Small town injustice - welcome to the Virginia judicial system.

Posted by: amywest99 | September 24, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

And to make sure the executed is truly dead requires an execution doctor. This is controversial, with state medical associations threatening to take away physicians' licenses to practice if they participate in state executions:

http://www.ethicsoup.com/2008/11/execution-doctors-unethical-whether-hanging-electrocution-gas-or-lethan-injection.html#more

And, why does Virginia not allow family members (of the person being executed) to be witnesses to the death?

Posted by: s_mceachern | September 24, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Unfortunately with justice and the law (not always the same thing) you get what you get when you enter into a crime. The law of natural consequences takes you to different places for different reasons when you make a deal with the devil (so to speak). I would not choose such a punishment for Teresa. I personally am not in favor of the Death Penalty. Unfortunately she entered into this with greed and ended up where she did because of her own actions. My heart goes out to her family and the family of her victims.

Posted by: nightowl2 | September 25, 2010 11:28 AM | Report abuse

More executions should be occurring in cases of proven murder regardless of gender. There should be no outcry about this execution. Feminists have twisted societal views to the point of absolving women under any circumstance. Instead of feminists taking responsibility as a human being with integrity should....they blame males for all of the ills of the world. Feminists conveniently forget that to have instituted change for women many men were needed to create the change from past societal norms. I believe true feminism perspective was initially about equality but that has changed. Hardcore feminism is blind. Yesterday's feminism has become today's fascism.

Posted by: davidbelanger | September 27, 2010 11:56 PM | Report abuse

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