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Another attempt to stop Va. execution

Lawyers for a 41-year-old woman set to be executed this week asked Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell on Monday to reconsider his decision Friday not to intervene in her case.

Teresa Lewis, who conspired with two men to carry out the 2002 murders of her husband and stepson, is scheduled to be killed by lethal injection Thursday in Virginia's death chamber. Her appeal is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a three-page letter dated Monday, lawyer James Rocap asks McDonnell (R) to commute Lewis's sentence from death to life without parole.

"Respectfully, the decision you announced on September 17, 2010 does not address any of the compelling reasons for clemency that have been advanced, including the significant new evidence that none of the courts have previously considered,'' he wrote. "Teresa's new evidence, which procedural rules prevented her from presenting to any court, is exactly the kind of information a governor should consider in deciding whether to grant clemency in spite of the decisions of the procedurally-bound courts."

Lewis's supporters argue that she does not deserve to die because she is borderline mentally retarded and was manipulated by a much smarter conspirator. They say it is unfair that Lewis was sentenced to death while the two men who fired the shots received life sentences.

Prosecutors and police have portrayed Lewis as the scheme's cold mastermind, who plotted the killings of her husband, Julian Lewis, and his son, Charles "C.J." Lewis, to collect insurance money. They say she gave her conspirators $1,200 to buy guns, set up an alibi for herself during an earlier, failed attempt to have her husband killed, then left the door to her trailer unlocked so the gunmen could slip in.

The new evidence cited in the letter includes admissions from one of the triggermen that he was the mastermind and information about Lewis's possible mental capacity.

In a statement announcing the decision late Friday, McDonnell said Lewis had admitted the "heinous crimes," and he noted that no medical professional has concluded that she is mentally retarded under Virginia law. "I find no compelling reason to set aside the sentence that was imposed by the Circuit Court," he wrote.

Lewis is set to be the first woman executed in Virginia in nearly a century. Since July, about 4,000 calls or emails have come into the governor's office about the Lewis case.

McDonnell spokeswoman Stacey Johnson declined to comment.

-- Anita Kumar

By Washington Post Editors  | September 20, 2010; 2:33 PM ET
Categories:  Death Penalty, Updates, Virginia  
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I would like to see the Washington Post address the fact that the pending execution of Teresa Lewis will be the very first of its kind. All psychological profiles aside, the only "masterminds" in this country who have been given the death penalty and subsequently executed were also convicted of "actually" committing the murder(s)they "masterminded" Teresa has been convicted of "masterminding" a crime she did not actually commit.
The pending execution of Teresa Lewis and the carelessness with which the death penalty has been employed is incomprehensible beyond both logic and words. The lack of true justice is absolutely horrifying.
We should all fear this particular execution based solely on its lack of judicial merit. It is nothing but a murder ordered by a judge who gave the "worst of the worst" life without parole and the co-operative, remorseful "mastermind" death. Apparently he was of the totally slanted belief that the poor trigger-men didn't have the option of saying no to the "mastermind".
Hope this is just a "Virginia thing"

Posted by: RaggedElegant1 | September 20, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Let it be a lesson to her...and all of you. Kill two people for money, get executed. Next.

Posted by: johnhopkinson2004 | September 20, 2010 9:08 PM | Report abuse

To correct a previous poster, this is not the first time someone will be executed for arranging the death of another or for contract murder. Marilyn Plantz was executed in Oklahoma in 2001 under similar circumstances.

Executing females is rare but when it occurs it's a media circus with facetious claims of diminished capability or conspiracy. Frances Newton was executed in 2005 amidst claims that police and prosecutors conspired to hide evidence of a second gun that was the "actual" murder weapon. Those claims evaporated following the execution.

Despite the fact that Lewis graduated from high school, attended some college, had a job, and drove a car her defense has tried to rebrand her as a simpleton. This woman had a drug habit which she supported by presenting herself to a series of doctors with a convincing list of symptoms to obtain a supply of prescription medications. This seems a little inconsistent with those supporters who claim she was incapable of planning and carrying out actions.

This case has been reviewed by multiple courts of appeal, including the Virginia Supreme Court, all of which have supported the conviction and sentencing. She received the death penalty because, as the sentencing judge observed, she was the "head of the serpent" responsible for the murder for money of her husband and stepson. There is nothing incomprehensible, illogical or unjust in her sentence.

Posted by: TRex3 | September 21, 2010 9:20 AM | Report abuse

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