So last Friday morning at 9am, the State of Virginia executed its first woman prisoner since 1912. Teresa Lewis, 41, was put to death for plotting the murders of her husband and stepson with two accomplices. Lewis was convicted of "masterminding" the affair in which two accomplices actually committed the murder. The accomplices received life in prison (where one of them committed suicide) but Lewis will be executed, as the Supreme Court has refused to hear her case, and the governor did not pardon her.
What's sad is that later evidence has shown that Lewis had somewhat diminished mental capacity, even though she meets the level to stand trial in VA, and it really looks as if she was manipulated in the whole sorry state of affairs.
The crucial piece of evidence that her attorneys wanted considered by the Supreme Court was a letter from one her 22 year old co-conspirators who she had entered into an affair with before agreeing to the murders. Matthew Shallenberger, who killed himself in jail in 2006, wrote a suicide note, in which he claimed full responsibility for the murder plot and suggested that he pushed Lewis into it. It read ... "From the moment I met her I knew she was someone who could be easily manipulated," he allegedly wrote. "Killing Julian and Charles Lewis was entirely my idea. I needed money, and Teresa was an easy target."
However, this evidence wasn't heard, and Lewis had a lethal injection. I feel bad for her. I'm not saying that she shouldn't have spent the rest of her life in prison, but I feel that if the men who committed the actual murders got life in prison, then it's a little unfair to execute a conspirator who didn't pull a trigger.
But I guess I feel that the whole capital punishment in unfair across the board. A couple of years ago, I went to a panel discussion on it, and met both the brother of the unibomber and the brother of Manny Babbitt, a Marine Corp, Vietnam Vet. The brother of the unabomber, who caused untold pain, managed to avoid the death penalty, whereas Babbitt didn't.
Babbitt earned a Purple Heart for courage under fire in the Vietnam war. He was hit by rocket shrapnel that opened his skull, he lost consciousness and was thought to be dead. He was loaded onto a pile of corpses by helicopter operators where he later regained consciousness, surrounded by severed limbs and bodies. He returned from Vietnam suffering from PTSD, exhibiting bizarre and violent behavior. Eventually he broke into the home of Leah Shendel, an elderly woman, and beat her. She later died of a heart attack.
His brother, Bill, turned him in, fully expecting that the war-hero brother would get all of the medical attention he clearly needed and deserved. But instead, not long after being awarded his Purple Heart, Manny Babbitt was executed one minute after midnight, May 4, 1999, in the state of California, on his 50th birthday.
I just remember thinking at that conference... "How ridiculously unfair!" One man who was a national hero, and suffering from mental illness and despair, who should have been sent to a psych ward for life, was killed, and another, who really shouldn't be allowed to live any longer, still publishes books from jail.
And now this Lewis case... I used to think that I was for capital punishment, that some crimes were so heinous that the accused did not deserve ANY chance of ever being able to hurt people again. But... the way the system works currently, the punishment isn't meted out in a fair way, and I think that if Babbitt and Lewis are the people we're executing and Ted Kaczynski is not, then perhaps we shouldn't be executing anyone.