Woman executed for double killing in Virginia

Woman executed for double killing in Virginia

The first woman executed in the United States in five years was put to death in Virginia today for arranging the killings of her husband and a stepson over a 250,000 US dollar insurance payment.

Teresa Lewis, 41, died by injection at 1.13am Irish time today, authorities said.

She became the first woman executed in Virginia in nearly a century.

Supporters and relatives of the victims watched her execution at Greensville Correctional Centre in Jarratt.

The Lewis execution stirred an unusual amount of attention because of her gender, claims she lacked the intelligence to mastermind the killings and the post-conviction emergence of defence evidence that one of the triggermen manipulated her.

Lewis enticed two men through sex, cash and a promised cut in an insurance policy to shoot her husband, Julian Clifton Lewis Jr, and his son, Charles, as they slept in October 2002.

Both triggermen were sentenced to life in prison and one committed suicide in 2006.

Lewis appeared fearful, her jaw clenched, as she was escorted into the death chamber. She glanced tensely around at 14 assembled corrections officials before being bound to a trolley with heavy leather straps.

Moments before her execution, Lewis asked if her husband’s daughter was near.

Kathy Clifton, Lewis’ stepdaughter, was in an adjacent witness room blocked from the inmate’s view by a two-way mirror.

“I want Kathy to know that I love her and I’m very sorry,” Lewis said.

Then, as the drugs flowed into her body, her feet moved slightly but she otherwise remained motionless. A guard lightly tapped her on the shoulder reassuringly as she slipped into death.

More than 7,300 appeals to stop the execution – the first of a woman in Virginia since 1912 – were made to the governor in a state second only to Texas in the number of people it executes.

The 41-year-old woman, who defence attorneys said was borderline mentally disabled, inspired other inmates by singing Christian hymns in prison.

Her fate also drew appeals from the European Union and an indignant rebuke from Iran.

Lewis’ supporters said she was a changed woman. They pointed to testimonials from former prison chaplains and inmates that Lewis comforted and inspired other inmates with her faith and the hymns and country gospel tunes she sang at the Fluvanna Correctional Centre for Women where she was long held.

Hours before her execution, Lewis met her family, her spiritual adviser and supporters at the Greensville Correctional Centre.

Her spiritual adviser, the Reverend Julie Perry, stood sobbing as she later witnessed the execution, clutching a religious book.

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