September 24, 2010, 9:13 AM ET
Teresa Lewis, the woman who plotted to kill her husband and stepson for insurance money back in 2002, Thursday night was executed Thursday night by lethal injection in Jarratt, Va. Click here for the Washington Post story; here for the Richmond Times-Dispatch story. Click here, here, and here for previous LB posts on Lewis during the runup to her execution date.
WaPo reporter Maria Glod described the scene this way:
Wearing a light blue prison-issued shirt and dark blue pants, Lewis looked anxious as she was led by officers into the death chamber at 8:55 p.m. She was placed on a white gurney, with leather straps securing her ankles, legs, wrists and chest, before intravenous lines were attached to each arm.
Lewis asked whether Kathy Clifton, the daughter and sister of her victims, was in the chamber.
“I just want Kathy to know that I love you, and I’m very sorry,” Lewis said before the drugs were pumped into her arms. Her feet, clad in flip-flops, twitched, but no other movement was visible. Her spiritual adviser, Julie Perry, cried as she stood in the back of the witness room.
Lewis was pronounced dead at 9:13 p.m.
Glom notes that Lewis’s case generated interest across the world. The European Union asked Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell to commute her sentence to life, citing her mental capacity. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad cited the case at an appearance in New York.
Lewis is the 12th woman to be executed in the United States since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976.
Her final meal: fried chicken, sweet peas with butter, German chocolate cake and Dr Pepper, corrections officials said.
A question: People are executed in this country fairly regularly; it takes special circumstances to garner worldwide media attention (like asking to be executed by a firing squad).
So what was noteworthy about the Lewis execution? For starters, there was the issue of her mental capacity. Her supporters (and others) condemned the execution on grounds that her mental capacity fell below the Supreme Court’s permissible threshold.
But part of it, assuredly, owed to the fact that Lewis was a woman.
At Slate, Dahlia Lithwick tackled the issue earlier this week, in this piece.
It seems clear in hindsight that both her death sentence and her clemency petition contain gender assumptions that the criminal justice system does not spell out explicitly. She was sentenced harshly because she used sexuality and adultery to mastermind a murder plot against loved ones, and she seeks a reprieve from death because her sexuality made her a victim in uniquely female ways.
Lithwick notes that women get sentenced to death at a lower rate than do men. But that only tells a portion of the story:
When women are sentenced to die, say experts, it tends to be for the most sexist reasons. Often, their crimes involve the murder of a spouse or a child, which comes with the assumption that they are bad mothers or unnatural wives. Experts say that men on death row, by comparison, have more often than not killed a stranger and done so in the commission of another crime. Why the double standard? Maybe it’s because, from the days of the Puritans, Americans have thrilled to stories of fiendish and beastly women who killed their loved ones. The culture expected white women to be “kindly, passive, virtuous caretakers,” writes Phyllis Goldfarb, a professor of law at George Washington University. When they committed murder instead, she writes, “execution seemed utterly appropriate.”
Teresa Lewis was born on April 26th, 1969 according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teresa_Lewis
April 26th, 1969
4 + 26 +1+9+6+9 = 55 = her life lesson = what she was here to learn = Mental capacity.