Governor Refuses to Stop Thursday Execution of Teresa Lewis

Saturday Governor Bob McDonnell denied a request for clemency for Teresa Lewis, who is scheduled to be the first woman executed in the United States in five years. The 41 year old inmate is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Thursday evening.

Teresa Lewis

The record reflects that in the fall of 2002, Teresa Lewis conspired with two men to murder her husband and her stepson, a U.S. Army reservist set to deploy for active duty, in order to obtain her husband’s assets, including the life insurance proceeds from another son’s accidental death, and her stepson’s life insurance policy.   In furtherance of the plot, Teresa Lewis agreed to share the proceeds with her co-conspirators, paid for the firearms and ammunition used in the murders, and enticed her 16 year-old daughter to become involved in the murder plans.   Teresa Lewis intentionally left a rear door to their home unlocked to allow the co-conspirators to easily enter the premises.   After one unsuccessful attempt to kill her husband a week earlier, the plan reached its tragic conclusion in the early hours of October 30, 2002.   After her co-conspirators shot the two victims multiple times with shotguns at close range, Lewis waited more than 45 minutes to call emergency response personnel, during which time her husband was still alive.   Lewis initially denied involvement in the murders but confessed a week later when faced with the evidence against her.

The Governor stated in a press release, ” Lewis filed a Petition for Executive Clemency on August 25, 2010, requesting that I commute the sentence of death to a sentence of life without parole. Having carefully reviewed the petition for clemency, the judicial opinions in this case, and other relevant materials, I find no compelling reason to set aside the sentence that was imposed by the Circuit Court and affirmed by all reviewing courts. Accordingly, I decline to intervene and have notified the appropriate counsel and family of my decision.”

Lewis admitted to police that she conceived a plan to kill her husband and son, after having an affair with co-defendant Matthew Shallenberger. Lewis’ lawyers claim that she was used by the male co-defendants, and manipulated into committing the crime. They point to her low IQ, which is just above the state’s threshold for being classified as mentally retarded. The defense further claims that Shallenberger was the alleged mastermind of the crime. However, Shallenberger committed suicide in 2006, without ever admitting to being the mastermind of the murder plot.

Lewis is one of only 66 females on death row and if the execution proceeds on Thursday, she will be the first woman executed in five years. Forty women have been executed in the last 100 years, but only 12 since 1976 when the Supreme Court resumed capital punishment. The last such execution was in September 2005 in Texas.