US state ready to execute first woman in century

VIRGINIA was moving forward last night with its first execution of a woman in nearly a century amid appeals from the European Union.

Teresa Lewis, 41, was scheduled to die by injection at 2am Irish time this morning at Greensville Correctional Centre in Jarratt for the October 2002 hired killings of her husband and stepson. To procure the hit men, prosecutors said, she used sex, cash and a promised cut of the insurance benefits the killings would reap her.

The US Supreme Court and Gov Bob McDonnell declined to intervene. All her legal appeals had been exhausted, her attorney said.

In a state with the second busiest death chamber in the US, the Lewis execution has 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 killers manipulated her.

Lewis’ supporters say she’s a changed woman, and point 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 Center for Women.

In a letter this month to McDonnell, the European Union asked the governor to commute her sentence to life, citing Lewis’ mental capacity. Her lawyers have said testing shows Lewis is borderline mentally retarded.

The European Union’s ambassador to the US wrote that the EU “considers that the execution of people with mental disorders of all types is contrary to minimum standards of human rights ...”

French Foreign Ministry spokesman Romain Nadal said yesterday it “deplored” the rejection of Lewis’ plea for clemency and the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear her appeal.

McDonnell said he found no compelling reason to grant clemency to Lewis.


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