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Watching Teresa Lewis die

Veteran Washington Post staff writer Maria Glod was a media witness to the execution of Teresa Lewis on Thursday night. Lewis was the first woman executed by Virginia in nearly 100 years. Here is her account of the event:

Three weeks ago I met convicted murderer Teresa Lewis in prison. Her husband and stepson died because of her, and she wept.

She told me she was scared, that her daughter hated her, and that she longed to see her baby grandson grow up. We were separated by glass and her wrists were cuffed, but she tucked her fingers through the narrow slot in the window and reached out to grasp my hand.

On Thursday night, I watched her die.

I volunteered to be a media witness to Lewis's execution because I believe that if our society chooses to execute murderers, we must face that choice and the details of how we carry out those killings. It is not for me to say whether the punishment was just, but it's my job to describe what I saw.

Still, in the days before, I dreaded going.

I don't pretend I knew Teresa Lewis. We only talked once for an hour or so. But it was enough time to know she understood she had done terrible things, but also there were people she loved who loved her.

It is unsettling and upsetting to plan a day around a death that will occur at a predetermined time, in a predetermined place before an audience.

Virginia carries out its executions at 9 p.m. to give the condemned most of their last day to see family. I entered the prison at 7 p.m. with three other media witnesses. We met up with eight citizen witnesses, volunteers who carry out a task the law requires. Guards searched us and officials gave a description of the history of executions in Virginia. Teresa's would be the 344th since October 1908, they told us.

We each signed a brown leather-bound witness book. I noticed that Teresa's lawyer, Jim Rocap, a man who fought to save her and, I knew, would be devastated by her death, had come in before us. Her spiritual adviser, a prison chaplain, was inside too.

About 8:40, we took a prison van to the death chamber, a sterile, drab, cinder-block area. We sat on plastic chairs in a tiered viewing room. Below us, separated by windows, was the gurney with white sheets and brown leather straps on which Teresa Lewis would die.

To our right was a second viewing room. I could not see inside, but I knew that Kathy Clifton, a gracious and soft-spoken woman whose father and brother were murdered in a plot Teresa Lewis was a key part of, had planned to be there with her husband, mother-in-law and a close friend.

An execution brings all the pain and humanity of a tragic crime to one place and I felt that weight as I sat looking into the death chamber.

Clifton had lost her mother to illness and another brother in a car crash. Most of the rest of her tight-knit family was wiped out the night Teresa Lewis let gunmen in the house. I've never lost someone close to me at the hands of another and was very aware that I couldn't comprehend the pain Clifton has endured.

She told me she hoped the death sentence would bring her some peace and a way to move forward. I hoped it would too.

But Teresa Lewis's death would also hurt people. She had a daughter, a son and a grandson. Rocap, Teresa's lifeline to the outside world for years, had come to know her as a gentle and simple person who was pulled into the crime by a conspirator. Prison chaplains and inmates told me Teresa was a dear friend who mattered to them.

There were about a dozen officials or guards in the death chamber, all waiting to carry out a quick and efficient death. The entire time, someone held a red phone that went straight to Gov. Robert McDonell's office in case there was a last-minute reprieve. Another official had an off-white phone that went to the warden's office in case the U.S. Supreme Court intervened. I knew neither would happen.

We all sat in eerie silence, waiting.

At 8:50, Rocap and Chaplain Julie Perry walked in. They looked crushed and exhausted. Perry, who would stand the entire time, held what I supposed was a Bible. She clasped Rocap's hand.

The next five minutes were the hardest. We all watched minutes tick by on a clock over the door Teresa would enter. I looked back. Rocap's eyes were shut and he looked pained. I wondered what Kathy Clifton felt.

Teresa Lewis, wearing a light blue shirt, dark blue pants and flip-flops, came through the door at 8:55, ushered by guards in blue uniforms who held her elbows. She looked toward us with a gaze that seemed dazed and anxious.

Within moments she was flat on the gurney. Several guards strapped her down. I never saw her face again.

At 8:58, officials drew a dark blue curtain across the window. Behind it, they attached the intravenous lines. We could not see or hear anything. Perry wept.

At 9:09, the curtain opened. Teresa's arms were now extended from her body with strips of white tape holding the tubes in. The warden asked Teresa if she had any final words. Her speech sounded garbled at first, but officials later told us she asked if Kathy Clifton was there.

Then she said clearly: "I just want Kathy to know that I love you and I'm very sorry."

The chemicals began flowing. In Virginia, the first is thiopental sodium, which renders the person unconscious. The second, pancuronium bromide, stops breathing. The final chemical, potassium chloride, stops the heart.

Teresa Lewis's feet and toes twitched, then they stopped. I couldn't tell when she died.

-- Maria Glod

By Washington Post editors  | September 24, 2010; 12:09 PM ET
Categories:  Death Penalty, Maria Glod, Virginia  
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Comments

Why did Lewis say "I love you" to Kathy Clifton?

Clifton was the related to the people that Lewis had killed. Did Lewis mean to imply that Clifton was somehow responsible for the execution?

Sad that a person who did nothing to be a participant in the drama was featured in the news. Did Lewis say anything else to prison employees there? They didn't do anything to be a part of this story either, but the reporter made no note of their participation or reactions.

Posted by: blasmaic | September 24, 2010 1:31 PM | Report abuse

blasmaic... What the hell are you talking about? What are you complaining about? Clifton was somehow responsible? How is that even remotely possible or even sensible. Were you trying to be confusing with that comment? If Lewis said something else, Miss Glod would have reported it. Man, you're weird.

Posted by: Kelso4 | September 24, 2010 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Lewis was Clifton's stepmother. You find it somehow unseemly that she would apologize to her? Why? It's sad that the state perpetuated these acts of violence by killing yet another human being. It's barbaric and uncivilized. Think this death will usher in some kind of peace to the victims or make the world a more just and better place? It won't. We all just got a little bit worse.

Posted by: DCLawyer1 | September 24, 2010 1:44 PM | Report abuse

DC Lawyer - Well, that says it all, doesn't it? What's wrong? not enough ambulances to chase today?

Posted by: madmike272 | September 24, 2010 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Blasmaic--while it's not said here, you should note that Clifton was Lewis's husband's daughter and so was a participant.

Posted by: ViennaBelle | September 24, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

If only her victims had been given the option to have people fight for them & to say last words/prayers. The headlines are all about Teresa Lewis, while the victims rot in their graves because of her.

Posted by: loved1 | September 24, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Another Lib-turd voter bites the dust ... NEXT!

Posted by: OhTheHumanity | September 24, 2010 2:10 PM | Report abuse

I wonder if the guys who actually did the murders would have been allowed to watch this killing. One of them committed suicide, I know, but the one who is alive and well must have felt relieved that someone else was paying for his crime and that he wouldn't have to face execution.

Posted by: squier13 | September 24, 2010 2:11 PM | Report abuse


Lethal injection should be replaced by public hangings.

Posted by: nuke41 | September 24, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Clifton was there as a relative of both of the victims. She sought closure to her own pain by observing the execution as the law permits, and the condemned directed a message to her as the execution began.

Why didn't the Post report on other statements the condemned uttered to those who had no relation to her and who were not there to mourn her death?

Did the executioner have any observation or opinions?

What about the guards?

These people, like Clifton, were not there to dramatize Lewis's humanity in death. They were there fulfilling obligations to family and/or work.

Clifton, like the prison employees, did nothing to become a participant in the media circus, but the condemned prisoner used her as a prop to protest her sentence... and the Washington Post played along.

Posted by: blasmaic | September 24, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

They didn't do anything to be a part of this story either, but the reporter made no note of their participation or reactions.

Posted by: blasmaic | September 24, 2010 ___________________________________
Well, if you must know, blasmaic, several of the guards were humming "And Another One Bites the Dust" - the hit song from Queen. And the chemical injection artist muttered "Gee, got to remember to get the milk and bread on my way home or my wife'll kill me!!"

There, satisfy your curiosity??

Posted by: rpcv84 | September 24, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse

So nuke41, OhtheHumanity, and loved1, and madmike272 tell us, please, what churches do you attend?

If you do attend a church, tell us if you think your lord and savior would have ever uttered the words you just did.

Posted by: DCLawyer1 | September 24, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse

DCLawyer1: You're a moron and you don't even get it. With your bleeding heart liberal beliefs, why don't we charge you for the maintenance of all what otherwise would be death row inmates and you can fund their sorry existence.

Posted by: rpcv84 | September 24, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

rpcv84, I have no curiosity about Lewis's execution.

It just seems to me that a person who witnesses an execution as a relative of a victim has a right to do so without becoming involved in the news story... especially if the condemned directs comments to them.

Lewis said "I love you" to Clifton as she was being executed. Are we supposed to be persuaded that Lewis's execution was wrong because Lewis is able to feel love for someone whose relatives she murdered?

Or maybe the statement was a chilling last effort to cause pain to the victim's family.

Posted by: blasmaic | September 24, 2010 2:53 PM | Report abuse

rpcv84, I have no curiosity about Lewis's execution.

It just seems to me that a person who witnesses an execution as a relative of a victim has a right to do so without becoming involved in the news story... especially if the condemned directs comments to them.

Lewis said "I love you" to Clifton as she was being executed. Are we supposed to be persuaded that Lewis's execution was wrong because Lewis is able to feel love for someone whose relatives she murdered?

Or maybe the statement was a chilling last effort to cause pain to the victim's family.

Posted by: blasmaic | September 24, 2010 2:57 PM | Report abuse

rpcv84, you know nothing about my beliefs. Opposition to the death penalty is neither liberal nor conservative. It is the express position of the Catholic Church and most Christian faiths, whether you want to admit it or not. Every other industrialized democracy has abandoned it. It cedes far too much power to a state that in so many ways shows itself incapable of acting rationally and without error. And yet you would cede to the state the very power to take life? Amazing.

As for the cost of maintaining capital felons, when I get to stop funding pernicious military excursions abroad and long-term incarceration of non-violent drug offenders we can have a discussion about what it costs YOU (as if) to spare the life of a convicted felon.

Perhaps a bit less Limbaugh and Beck and some deeper consideration of your political and moral philosophy would be in order.

Posted by: DCLawyer1 | September 24, 2010 3:08 PM | Report abuse

And who really cares what Lewis's last words were???? She could have repeated the 23rd Psalm and it would have meant nothing to us....

To attempt to analyze her last words is about the silliest thing I have ever read...Two innocent people are dead and others are debating the killers' last words...

Posted by: pentagon40 | September 24, 2010 3:14 PM | Report abuse

As a member of Texans Against the Death Penalty, I believe it's important to consider a few facts here.
Forget about the personalities.
State laws in a number of states require execution in the commission of some crimes.
My father was pro-death penalty for rapists because he told me he wanted to ensure that a convicted rapist could never have the possibility of walking the street that I might also walk down.
At that time, Texas gave parole opportunities to anyone convicted of any crime not sentenced to execution or commuted to life in prison.
I've always said that I would oppose the death penalty if Texas would institute life without parole and bury these guys deep in the misery of the Texas prison system.
That is now the case.
Texas has changed our law so the death penalty is no longer necessary.
I oppose the death penalty for several reasons:
1. It's a practice which compels state employees to be involved in an action which dehumanizes the executioner.
2. Execution cases are prohibitively expensive.
We can keep people in prison for years at lower expense; usually, they die before the cost of maintaining them in prison overcomes the cost of executing them.
3. If it comes to light that the wrong person was executed and this can be proven by evidence, then the law has failed to do its job which is to ensure that the executed is the culprit.
With an execution, it's impossible to redress the result of a wrongful conviction.
+ + +
Of the 3 reasons above, I can only offer personal anecdotes:
#1. When my husband was serving in the Army and on his way to Vietnam, the soldier in the next seat had the MOS (his job in the Army) of hangman.
They had quite a discussion.
He had to study what mechanics it took to hang a man to death without tearing his head off.
The type of rope used, the amount of drop is calculated; the weight of the culprit is a factor in calculating the length of the drop.
The focus is to break the man's neck and cause fast strangulation.
He was very matter-of-fact about his job, my husband said.
Hearing him talk about it gave my husband cold chills, even as they were both going into an active "hot" situation where they might have to defend their lives.
#2. Texas executes more people, by far, than any other state in the nation.
Execution is a big industry at "The Walls" in Huntsville, TX.
Texas also has one of the largest prison systems in the nation.
The system grants early releases to violent felons in spurts due to the expense of incarcerating them for the length of their sentences.
If we weren't spending so much money on executing a few, we could maintain our prison system much more efficiently so it could do the job it should do.
#3. There are enough cases proven by the Innocence Project to establish the fact that the legal system applying execution as punishment is grossly uneven.
This case proves that point.
(continued ...)

Posted by: Judy-in-TX | September 24, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Actually, I don't much care what Lewis said. I care that the Washington Post reported her words... especially because it appears to me that Lewis used a relative of the victims as a prop to protest her own execution.

The law permits relatives of the victims to witness the execution, and then the condemned gets to have her statements made to those witnesses published in the Post?

What exactly did Kathy Clifton do to become involved in this whole thing? Nothing. She was just a relative of the two people Lewis murdered, and Lewis used her as a prop to protest her own sentence... and the Post played along.

Posted by: blasmaic | September 24, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Actually blasmic, I think we should know what was said. If this is to be a public execution, the details should not be shielded from the public. As for Clifton, she chose to attend. But even if she hadn't, the fact that a person about to be executed might express remorse for their act and concern for those they hurt should hardly be worth your criticism. What would you have her say? And why should the Post not report it. Are you perhaps feeling a bit of remorse for your own silent role as a citizen in a country that permits execution?

Posted by: DCLawyer1 | September 24, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse

blasmaic, right on. I believe that she's nearly retarded, but not completely because people too limited have assisted living and don't commit murder. If anything, their ignorant bliss is sometimes enviable.

"pardoning" Clifton for "condemning" her is an interesting misinterpretation of christianity that sheds a lot of light on her mental state.

Teresa "forgave" Clifton, instead of begging for forgiveness herself. she views herself as the victim, which shows a lack of compassion, remorse, and true belief in her new found christianity. These are complex thoughts and miscalculations that are more likely attributed to egocentricity and self pity than any sort of mental handicap. retarded? no. Stupid? absolutely.

Posted by: batigol85 | September 24, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

While I do not condone what she did, why is it that the men who actually committed the murder got life instead of the death penalty? Why did O.J. Simpson get off for the slaugher of two people? Money!!! Why didn't Terry Nickels receive the death penalty like Tim McVeigh, after all, he helped plan that mass terrorist murder in Oklahoma ?? She could not afford a lawyer; a court-appointed "do my duty" attorney "defended" her. I weep for this woman, and beleive me, I am not a "bleeding heart liberal, nor a far right conservative. She should have been in prison for a very long time, but VA went to far by excuting this woman. The governor is a total jerk, he would not even consider staying it (the execution), unlike former Governor Wilder who commuted a condemned man, during the 80's when he himself proved, with a lot of research, that is was impossible for him to have killed the two people he was accused of murdering. Our justice system is lopsided, we either go to far one way or to far the other.

Posted by: rheanellday | September 24, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Regarding #3 in my previous post, this case is clear:
The mentally-retarded woman who was part of the planning of these murders is executed, while the actual killers get life in prison?
That's uneven application of the strictures of the law.
In the case I referred to earlier, the case my father was talking about regarding a rapist, there were 2 men involved.
(This case occurred in Texas in 1957, when rape was a capital crime.)
The leader in the crime was white; his accomplice, a much younger person was black.
The two men were tried separately.
The black man was executed for the crime.
The white man got life with parole after 20 years (I think).
The white man had a famous Texas defense lawyer, Percy Foreman, as his advocate.
In the jury room (my mother was on the jury), when the jurors began to deliberate the death penalty, a juror laid a Bible on the table and said, "The Bible says 'Thou shalt not kill.'
I will not vote for the death penalty."
The jury sent the judge a note:
Which was the longer sentence:
99 years or life?
The judge refused to answer the question for fear of voiding the verdict on appeal.
The jury ordered life in prison, which made parole possible after about 20 years.
Had the jury assessed 99 years, he would have had to wait 33 years to be eligible for parole.
The rule was 1/3 of the sentence.
Life expectancy for men at that time was approximately 65 years of age.
That's how the minimum 20 years was determined.
Bury'em in prison, away from personal attention and press publicity.
Don't give 'em the publicity to believe in some demented way they could be considered heroes to some minority part of the population.
In Texas, we often see uneven application of the law in criminal cases.
For those reasons, I no longer support the death penalty.

Posted by: Judy-in-TX | September 24, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

batigol85 -- your post is ridiculous. Teresa said I love you and I'm sorry. She did not forgive Clifton. She neither condemned nor sought pardon. She simply apologized. You have no evidence whatsoever to support the proposition that those statements were insincere.

You are making things up. Does it make you feel better to do that?

Posted by: DCLawyer1 | September 24, 2010 3:46 PM | Report abuse

My impression is that whatever she said could not be heard beyond her final words to Clifton. In addition, nobody else said anything. I think her last words, even to a crime victim, are a legitimate part of the story.

My question is, why is it that so (seemingly) many murderers see the light after they get caught? Do none of them comprehend the seriousness of their actions beforehand?

Posted by: woof3 | September 24, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

As for the whole who gets life and who gets death, the issue isn't nearly as simple as people carelessly make it seem. Killing your own husband and son is not the same as killing a stranger. Sure, in both cases people are dead. but think about it, you'd give your mom a ride to the airport but not a random guy. it's the trust, the access, and the absolute heartlessness that makes the crime so egregious and worthy of the death penalty.

Posted by: batigol85 | September 24, 2010 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Batigol85, your logic is absurd. Is what John Lee Malvo (the DC Sniper) did therefore less worthy of death because his victims were random? The state should not be killing people, regardless of motive or opportunity.

Posted by: DCLawyer1 | September 24, 2010 3:55 PM | Report abuse

rpcv84, you know nothing about my beliefs. Opposition to the death penalty is neither liberal nor conservative. It is the express position of the Catholic Church and most Christian faiths, whether you want to admit it or not. Every other industrialized democracy has abandoned it. It cedes far too much power to a state that in so many ways shows itself incapable of acting rationally and without error. And yet you would cede to the state the very power to take life? Amazing.

Posted by: DCLawyer1 | September 24, 2010
______________
And, DCLawyer1, our doors are wide open for you to relocate to one of the other industrialized democracies that has abandoned capital punishment. Why not choose Italy, and leave your USA passport at Da Vinci Airport immigration? Doing so would allow you to be close to your revered pedophile Catholic priests who profess to be sooo Christian "acting rationally and without error..." BARF.

Posted by: rpcv84 | September 24, 2010 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Four young men who were my colleagues were killed in separate incidents solely for protecting and serving their community. One perp was shot dead, one was lethally injected, three received 40 and 50 year and life prison sentences as there was no death penalty in effect in Virginia during that murder. Every damn one of the perps should have been executed.

Old retired policeman.

Posted by: jnsbear | September 24, 2010 4:04 PM | Report abuse

DC, down girl.

Matthew 5:44 - But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you

lewis didn't "simply apologize". She also said she loved Clifton. why would she say that to the person that was perhaps most devastated by her murder? it's not logical. But what is logical is that a last minute convert picked up on a big christian theme and misinterpreted it, inadvertently illuminating her lack of remorse.

Posted by: batigol85 | September 24, 2010 4:06 PM | Report abuse

DC Lawyer - Well, that says it all, doesn't it? What's wrong? not enough ambulances to chase today?

Posted by: madmike272 |

Yes, we all hate Lawyers, until we need one.

Posted by: ged0386 | September 24, 2010 4:09 PM | Report abuse

@rpcv84 : I think blasaic must have recently read "The Green Mile"

Posted by: JRM2 | September 24, 2010 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Rpcv84 -- Actually, I would like to see the Pope prosecuted for conspiracy. (I would also like to see Bush and Cheney convicted of war crimes but I digress). My point is that centuries of religious tradition oppose the death penalty while so many who call themselves conservative in modern America support it. Curious, no?

Considering the continued erosion of civil liberties in America, many European countries might indeed be a better bet, although your nativist schtick is so predictable it's barely worthy of response.

There simply is no rational basis for supporting the death penalty in a modern civilized democracy. I've certainly not seen one evident in these comments.

Posted by: DCLawyer1 | September 24, 2010 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Do you people just make up things so you can have something to b!t@h and moan about? Get a life people.

Posted by: ged0386 | September 24, 2010 4:12 PM | Report abuse

@batigol85 "Why would she say that to the person that was perhaps most devastated by her murder?"

The obvious answer is because Clifton was family. They lived together. Teresa knows she caused harm and though she has apologized before, wanted to say it again. Absent evidence you are simply making up motives to cast Teresa in a worse light in order to quell your own moral doubts about the execution. Admit it.

You are the one misinterpreting scripture. You actually have the nerve to quote Matthew and support the death penalty in the same breath? The hypocrisy boggles.

Posted by: DCLawyer1 | September 24, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Capital punishment is legalized murder.
That being said, this was lousy journalism. What happened to Who, what, where, when, why?
What did she do?
Where did she do it?
When did she do it?
Why did she do it?
I'm a political newsy so I do't read the tabloids very often.
Shouldn't stories about people tell these things?
Just curious. I feel like I'm living on the moon. Maybe after November 2..................

Posted by: m_richert | September 24, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

That's absurd. She had no problem killing her family in the first place. And anyway, its impossible to deterimine what she difinitively meant anyway, all we can do is conjecture.

"Absent evidence you are simply making up motives to cast Teresa in a worse light in order to quell your own moral doubts about the execution"

i think this is a REALLY interesting statement, actually. Your points are overly emotional and quite frankly terrible. Classic projection.

Posted by: batigol85 | September 24, 2010 4:34 PM | Report abuse

DCLawyer1, if you oppose the death penalty then state your reasons.

Most people just seem upset because a woman was executed, as if women are unable to commit acts as henious as men.

Posted by: blasmaic | September 24, 2010 4:43 PM | Report abuse

woof3, what she was quoted as saying needn't have involved the victim's family. The Post could have reported that she said she made statements of love and remorse while asking forgiveness.

I believe Lewis's media coaches instructed her to speak words of love to her victim's relative, as if the failure of Clifton to beg for the life of her father's and brother's murderer was a moral failing.

It's true Christianity teaches to love your enemies and turn the other cheek. On one level, you may think Lewis was just messed up in her head. But in the context of a double-homicide, it could just be the murderer seeking to harm her victims' loved ones one more time.

But the Washington Post will print the condemned prisoner's quotes without consideration for the relatives of those murdered by her.

I guess Clifton should have begged for the life of Lewis if she didn't want to seem like the bad guy in the media.

Posted by: blasmaic | September 24, 2010 4:54 PM | Report abuse

I have read comments from those who's loved ones have been murdered, and who witnessed the exectution of the killer. They are usually glad to have seen that and actually do feel the elusive "closure" that people speak of. I have felt closure myself when a more public enemy has been executed. I felt that way when the DC Sniper was finally finished. It felt right. I think the penalty needs to stay on the books, even if we administer it less frequently, society should have the option.

Posted by: Harise | September 24, 2010 5:06 PM | Report abuse

DC Lawyer-
You are rather ignorant for someone who claims to have a JD. In fact, the Catholic Church does NOT condemn capital punishment as a matter of doctrine, although they do set a very high bar for what they would consider a just execution. Admittedly, Teresa Lewis probably did not meet that threshold, but don't make blanket statements about Catholic doctrine that are simply false. Rather, open up a catechism and look it up- they did teach you how to research facts in law school, didn't they? Many other Christian denominations (probably not the liberal church you attend, though...) are quite a bit LESS nuanced in their SUPPORT of the death penalty.

You claim about industrial democracies is laughable. Japan does indeed practice capital punishment. They are quite industrialized, and have been a democracy since 1945. You probably meant to say all EUROPEAN democracies. Again, very sloppy on your part.

Are you sure you have a JD?

Posted by: brian1va1 | September 24, 2010 5:14 PM | Report abuse

In my younger days, I felt the righteous indignation that justified harshness and rigid application of "the law". It is this same righteous indignation that people rely on to enforce capital punishment. I have come to conclude that that feeling is wrong, un-Christian, and that capital punishment is not justified. It does not mean that people are not punished, but leave it to God to take life.

Posted by: clarkesq | September 24, 2010 5:16 PM | Report abuse

If only her victims had been given the option to have people fight for them & to say last words/prayers. The headlines are all about Teresa Lewis, while the victims rot in their graves because of her.

Posted by: loved1

--------------

Well, the headlines are because of Lewis because the State killed her. If the State was more moral than a murderer, there wouldn't be any headlines at all....

Posted by: ghokee | September 24, 2010 5:16 PM | Report abuse

I doubt the media intended to demonize Clifton, and instead take at face value Gold's emotionally strenuous account of what happened. Clifton was part of the execution and the last words of the accused were directed at her, therefore her involvement is relevant.

it isn't plausible that teresa was coached to profess love and that she was trying to stick one last psychological barb in the victim's bereaved at the same time. I don't think either of those make sense because 1. people on death row don't have media handlers, especially in virginia, and 2. the woman killed her husband and step son primarily for money, not hate. I don't see someone with that rationale try sucker punch someone on the way out.

Posted by: batigol85 | September 24, 2010 5:20 PM | Report abuse

Maria Glod says "I volunteered to be a media witness to Lewis's execution because I believe that if our society chooses to execute murderers, we must face that choice and the details of how we carry out those killings."

Ms Glod, first off she was not killed she was executed. She killed, the state executed. And who cares what YOU believe? If you can't report objectively then have the WaPo send someone else.

Posted by: Jimof1913 | September 24, 2010 5:28 PM | Report abuse

The whole thing looks media orchestrated to me, and executions have always been so. For example, who began the tradition of printing the details of the condemned's last meal? Certainly, it was a print publication, but back at a time before cable, broadcast television, or even radio.

Family of the victims though should not be drawn into the story when they are just witnessing the execution for personal reasons. For example, some may feel it is their obligation to the deceased to particpate in the completion of the death sentence... but Clifton did nothing to land herself in that role. Other people chose to be anti-death penalty activists or prison spiritual counselors or newspaper reporters, and even Lewis herself chose to be a murderer. Clifton just learned one day that her father and brother had been murdered. That's what put her there.

The report however reads like Clifton failed morally to beg the governor for Lewis to be spared the death sentence, and it reads that way because that's how Lewis and her supporters -- apparently including the Washington Post reporter -- wanted it to.

Posted by: blasmaic | September 24, 2010 5:47 PM | Report abuse

This was simply a "you are there" piece by Ms. Glod, not a political or sociological observation. She wanted readers to know what it was like to watch an execution. She accomplished that, marvelously, without judgment.

Posted by: Tom Jackman | September 24, 2010 6:33 PM | Report abuse

Thank you Miss Glod for making a record of this senseless crime that was carried out by the Commonwealth of VA. The death penalty is a barbaric act that has not one redeeming quality, not one. I doubt that Ms. Clifton feels any better today than she did yesterday or the day her father and brother were killed.

Posted by: jillcohen | September 24, 2010 6:51 PM | Report abuse

Don't worry, it's just a matter of time before Obama and his liberal hoard start executing political opponents in the New Liberal Order. I'm sure Ms. Glod will be there to witness those events as well....

Posted by: WildBill1 | September 24, 2010 7:59 PM | Report abuse

They didn't do anything to be a part of this story either, but the reporter made no note of their participation or reactions.

Posted by: blasmaic | September 24, 2010 ___________________________________
Well, if you must know, blasmaic, several of the guards were humming "And Another One Bites the Dust" - the hit song from Queen. And the chemical injection artist muttered "Gee, got to remember to get the milk and bread on my way home or my wife'll kill me!!"

There, satisfy your curiosity??
Posted by: rpcv84 | September 24, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse
________
What type of milk, soy, whole, 2%? Please, inquiring minds want to know!!!

Posted by: WildBill1 | September 24, 2010 8:06 PM | Report abuse

Maria is a fine reporter who always gets the story straight. I don't perceive her as injecting any kind of bias into her stories.

Witnessing an execution as a citizen in Virginia is easy enough to do. All you have to do is contact the VA Dept. of Corrections and ask. I went years ago, it was an experience which I will never forget. Not traumatic in any sense, just "different" from any environment that I have previously been.

Posted by: vuac | September 24, 2010 8:17 PM | Report abuse

I'm troubled by the logic of execution. If our society deems killing another human being a crime, why does our society uses the means of a criminal act by killing a human being as punishment for that crime.

What troubles me more is that my "so-called" law-abiding, do-no-wrong fellow citizens with whom I live with, want someone killed.

I think Europeans have a different view on capitol punishment because they have seen far more killing in their history. Americans do not have that level of maturity as a society.

Execution will not end murder, nor do I believe any level of justification for execution can be made except in the time of War or if your life is in imminent jeopardy. Taking a life is wrong, no matter which side of the law you are on.

Posted by: ejkelley1 | September 24, 2010 9:40 PM | Report abuse

In an otherwise fair report, it was wrong of the reporter to mention the double-murderer's last words, invoked to cause additional pain to the daughter and sister of Teresa Lewis' victims. Sure, tell us her final meal, but don't let that scum have the last taunting word to that poor woman who had her family killed by this creep.

Posted by: johnhopkinson2004 | September 24, 2010 10:31 PM | Report abuse

Boooorriiinnggg.

Bring back ol' Sparky! Yeah, buddy!

Posted by: RepealObamacareNow | September 25, 2010 12:58 AM | Report abuse

If someone has clearly committed murders - I don't really care whether they sit in jail forever or whether they are executed. The problem I have with the death penalty is the cases where there are sketchy eye witness accounts that lead to conviction. There should be a very high bar for execution if it is going to exist at all. DNA, camera, covered in blood with a knife in their hand. Eye witness doesn't cut it. Even confession doesn't work - look what happened with the NYC jogger! Those kids sat in jail for many years after confessing to something they didn't do (how that happened - not sure - but it did).

Also - everyone is worried about whether lethal injection hurts, etc. Why don't they simply go to carbon monoxide? I mean, its about as peaceful a death as there can be. You fall asleep, you die. If it was painful, people would be jumping out of their enclosed, gas filled cars.

Posted by: overdrive_68 | September 25, 2010 1:38 AM | Report abuse

The reporter notes how unsettling and upsetting it was to her to plan a day around a death that will occur at a predetermined time, in a predetermined place. Odd; it doesn't seem to have bothered Teresa Lewis in the least when she made a decision to become a murderer.

Posted by: sinenomine | September 25, 2010 8:42 AM | Report abuse

The reporter notes how unsettling and upsetting it was to her to plan a day around a death that will occur at a predetermined time, in a predetermined place. Odd; it doesn't seem to have bothered Teresa Lewis in the least when she made a decision to become a murderer.

Posted by: sinenomine | September 25, 2010 8:42 AM | Report abuse

Actually DCLawyer, I am not of any faith, am not a registered republican, nor a member of the Tea Party, so that should deflate your little baloon

Posted by: madmike272 | September 25, 2010 4:33 PM | Report abuse

But, DCLawyer, I have been on the job long enough to have seen my share or homicides, rapes and attacks to know that some people just need to die. A contract killer, and the filth that tied up, raped, and then torture/mordered that family in Conn. are in reel need to die, and I pretty much have the same feelings towards their lawyers too!

Posted by: madmike272 | September 25, 2010 4:40 PM | Report abuse

"I knew neither would happen." Are you reporting or commentating?

Posted by: wewintheylose | September 25, 2010 6:14 PM | Report abuse

I oppose capital punishment in all instances because the cost of making an error is very high. The vast number of people (mostly black men) who have been freed from prison with just advancements in DNA technology alone proves that we execute far too many people who in fact are not guilty.

There are also scenarios where the execution of someone could play into the hands of additional conspirators or accomplices, such as the deaths of Timothy McVeigh and John Allen Muhammad. No one could publicly oppose their executions because they were so hated, but having them silenced permanently only favors any others who might have been involved but unidentified.

Until we end all executions, then I would take every opportunity to follow-through and see the perpetrators of any violence against my family punished. It's just a family obligation that no one would want to have placed upon them but one most people would readily carry out.

It is possible to oppose capital punishment as public policy while dancing on the grave of anyone executed for harming people you love. People who say just wait until it is your loved one who is killed fail to recognize that they can both oppose capital punishment generally and advocate for a killer's execution specifically, as a family matter.

With Teresa Lewis, I was unmoved by dozens of women saying she was manipulated by a man to kill her husband and son. It makes it seem that women are incapable of committing acts that deserve the death penaly. Why didn't they go the incompetent lawyer route? That avenue always focuses on the inability of the judicial system to fairly administer such a permanent and irreversible punishment. (And everybody hates lawyers to begin with.)

Posted by: blasmaic | September 25, 2010 7:51 PM | Report abuse

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