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First Woman In 5 Years Executed In US

The first woman executed in the United States in five years was put to death in Virginia on Thursday for arranging the killings of her husband and a stepson over a 250,000 US dollar insurance
PTI September 24, 2010 13:50 IST
PTI
The first woman executed in the United States in five years was put to death in Virginia on Thursday 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 9:13 p.m. Thursday (0113 GMT Friday), 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 Center in Jarratt.

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 were sleeping in the couple's mobile home in October 2002.

Both gunmen were sentenced to life in prison and one committed suicide in 2006.  Lewis appeared tearful, her jaw clenched, as she was escorted into the death chamber.

She glanced tensely around at the 14 assembled corrections officials before being bound to a gurney with heavy leather straps.  In the moments before her execution, Lewis asked if her husband's daughter was there.

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 bobbed but she otherwise remained motionless. A guard lightly tapped on her 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 - had been made to the governor in a state second only to Texas in the number of people it executes.

Texas held the most recent US execution of a woman in 2005. Out of more than 1,200 people put to death since the US Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976, only 11 have been women.  

The 41-year-old woman, who defence attorneys said was borderline mentally disabled, had inspired other inmates by singing Christian hymns in prison.  Her fate also had drawn appeals from the European Union, an indignant rebuke from Iran and the disgust of thousands of people.  

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 gunmen manipulated her.

Lewis' supporters also 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 Center for Women where she was held. AP