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Condemned woman asks McDonnell to reconsider her death sentence

Anita Kumar

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.

By Anita Kumar  | September 20, 2010; 12:22 PM ET
Categories:  Anita Kumar, Robert F. McDonnell  
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Comments

The only compelling reason is that the two people who actually did the killing was not sentenced to death. In cases likes this it should be an all or none deal...but certainly the trigger man has to face the harshes penalty.

Posted by: PracticalIndependent | September 20, 2010 1:44 PM | Report abuse

The only compelling reason is that the two people who actually did the killing was not sentenced to death. In cases likes this it should be an all or none deal...but certainly the trigger man has to face the harshes penalty.

Posted by: PracticalIndependent | September 20, 2010 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Teresa is not retarded. She was the instigator of this crime. Attorney Rocap should accept the Governors decision and not whine about reconsideration.

Posted by: vuac | September 20, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

This demonstrates clearly why the death penalty should be repealed.

Posted by: fredmlaw | September 20, 2010 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Let's see...

1. Paid for the weapons
2. Allowed shooters access to the trailer
3. Was beneficiary on the insurance
4. The shooters didn't know her husband so
she had to have provided the info to
arrange the attack.

Not too strong of an argument there...

Posted by: BigDaddy651 | September 20, 2010 2:00 PM | Report abuse

She deserves to die more than the shooters. She planned her husband's death. This was not a random act of violence, and on top of that she had his son killed. According to the other article, she is seen as a motherly figure in jail. If she was as "retarded" as they claimed she is, wouldn't she been seen as a little sister?

The reason the other guys did not earn the death penalty is probably because they tesitfied against her. I refuse to believe was an adulterer and someone that conspires to kills their husband and step child says. She and her lover wanted the insurance money to buy a double wide and endless supply of meth.

One thing I can say about Virginia is they don't waste time and tax dollars on death row inmates. Fire up ol sparky, they bar-b-queing in VA [in a country Virginia accent].

Posted by: ClevenderInDC | September 20, 2010 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Mercy from a Christian Conservative? Blood from a stone is more likely.

Posted by: NancyNaive | September 20, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

If only we could stop reading references to her being the first woman in X years to be executed. Assuming one supports the death penalty, then it should apply equally; women shouldn't get any kind of special exemption if they've been convicted of a capital crime just because of their gender. That's completely contrary to any reasonable definition of equality of treatment under the law. And it obscures the issue at hand, which is -- under Virginia law -- does this convict deserve to die at the hands of the state?

I, too, am primarily troubled by the fact that the actual triggerman(men?) did not get the death penalty. THEY were free to not carry out the deed; in some respects, their behaviour then becomes even more heinous than hers.

Posted by: 7900rmc | September 20, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Her lawyer is to blame for her death.

She had the right to a jury trial and no jury in Virginia would ever execute a woman (can't speak for Texas).

Her lawyer did not exchange her guilty plea for an assurance of life in prison. She pleaded guilty to capital murder before a judge, and he sentenced her to die.

Tim Kaine, a Catholic and a Democrat who vetoed eight death-penalty expansion bills, had the power to commute her death sentence on every day of his four years in office and did not.

Kum-by-ah.

Posted by: blasmaic | September 20, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Slip n fall lawyer tactics: "borderline mentally retarded" First they tried to say Lethal Injection was unconstitutional, then it was inhumane, then it was too costly, then its not a deterent, now with no where to run, she is a mental defective...well almost...but she's a woman...but she didnt actually pull the trigger she just hired the druggies and sex addicts to kill. Sorry. No. The ultimate penalty is due.

Posted by: espnfan | September 20, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse

She plotted and planned the murder of two people, then aided in executing the plan. How much of a retard is she when she is able to do all of that? Oh that's right, NOW she's sorry. Well, how about that man who lie in his bed knowing he was dying? And how about his son who did nothing wrong? Oh, NOW she found God and is helping people. I don't believe her for a minute. A little too little, and a little too late.

Posted by: ms1234 | September 20, 2010 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Let her miserable soul rot in hell. Why should the taxpayers of Virginia support this subhuman for the rest of her life after what she has done?

Posted by: Pilot1 | September 20, 2010 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Let her miserable soul rot in hell. Why should the taxpayers of Virginia support this subhuman for the rest of her life after what she has done?

Posted by: Pilot1 | September 20, 2010 4:20 PM | Report abuse

I think they should give the death penalty only to those who willingly kill "children." Amen.

Posted by: dcjlm2003 | September 20, 2010 4:35 PM | Report abuse

One thing I find troubling about this situation is what it suggests.

A heartless criminal could manipulate an easily suggestible person into collaborating in a murderous plot for money and then, if caught, cop a plea deal and scapegoat the mark.

I'm not saying that's what happened here, but if this woman is really "not all there," I certainly wouldn't be okay with her execution, not that my opinion matters.

Posted by: FedUpInMoCo | September 20, 2010 4:37 PM | Report abuse

I suspect that she didn't turn state's evidence and get herself a life sentence because she didn't grasp enough about the crime to provide useful testimony.
Executing her isn't going to do any good; lock her up for life.

Posted by: amstphd | September 20, 2010 5:48 PM | Report abuse

Interesting fact that was left out. The accused here has a previous record for forging prescriptions. She was given probation for that. Is that a crime a mentally retarded person commits? Come on folks.

Posted by: Veleno45 | September 20, 2010 6:01 PM | Report abuse

"I, too, am primarily troubled by the fact that the actual triggerman(men?) did not get the death penalty. THEY were free to not carry out the deed; in some respects, their behaviour then becomes even more heinous than hers. "

This. I don't know which is worse, conspiring to kill your husband or conspiring to kill someone you've never met and never harmed you or yours. I don't think she should be set free, and she's certainly no saint, but the person who actually pulled the trigger should not get a lesser sentence than the person who planned it. Look at it this way, it was her decision and plan, but if not for the co-conspirators no murder would've taken place. Either hang em all or none.

Posted by: onlytheshadowknows1 | September 20, 2010 6:14 PM | Report abuse

What's wrong with our justice system that we are so eager to punish and kill so many people?

In this case, we have a woman who planned two murders and gets the Death penalty while her accomplices, who actually did the murders, get life sentences.

That alone is just so wrong. This woman commited a crime, is borderline mentally retarded, and is permanantly separated from society.

This incident has crossed the line between savageness and Public safety.

Posted by: localgoober | September 20, 2010 6:32 PM | Report abuse

She obviously has mental issues. Aren't most people who plot to kill others defective somehow? I don't buy it, let the execution begin. We need to use the death penalty more frequently.

Posted by: Jsuf | September 20, 2010 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Send the dirtbag down the line Governor..

Posted by: wewintheylose | September 20, 2010 8:23 PM | Report abuse

The true Bible's "666 beast" is The U.S. of America !!!.

Posted by: josealbuerne | September 21, 2010 3:36 PM | Report abuse

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