Teresa Lewis on Death Row Makes Her Last Decision: Her Final Meal

Supreme Court denies Teresa Lewis' emergency appeal for delay.

September 21, 2010, 6:52 PM

Sept. 22, 2010— -- Teresa Lewis, who is set for execution Thursday evening, is down to her last choice: her final meal.

She has informed prison personnel she'd like two chicken breasts, sweet peas with butter, a Dr. Pepper and either German cake or apple pie for dessert. She will be the first woman executed in Virginia in nearly a century.

Her legal odyssey ended Tuesday night when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear her appeal. Before the court ruled, supporters of Lewis, who suffers from borderline mental retardation, posted a recording on the Web of Lewis singing the gospel hymn "I Need a Miracle." As the recording plays, pictures of Lewis and her daughter flash on the screen.

With a scheduled 9 p.m. EDT execution, Virginia Department of Corrections rules allow Lewis to have only one visit with immediate family before she is put to death by lethal injection. Attorneys, clergy and spiritual advisors are allowed to visit up until the time of execution.

Victim's rights advocates were unsympathetic to her appeal, pointing out the seriousness of her crime.

According to court records, in 2002, Lewis participated in a plan with two hit men to kill her husband and stepson in order to get a life insurance payout.

Lewis stood in another room as Matthew J. Shallenberger and Rodney L. Fuller shot Julian Lewis and his son C.J., at close range.

Judge: "Wantonly Vile, Horrible Act."

After the hit men fled, Lewis waited 45 minutes while her husband lay dying, before calling the police. She claimed that an unknown intruder had shot the men.

When sheriff's deputies arrived on the scene, Julian Lewis told them, "My wife knows who done this do me."

He died soon after.

Lewis eventually pled guilty to her role in the plan. In court, she apologized to the judge for her actions saying she was "truly sorry, from the bottom of my heart."

Shallenberger and Fuller were sentenced to life in prison. But the trial judge found that Lewis was the mastermind behind the crimes and sentenced her to death. The judge pointed out that after her husband was shot, Lewis went to his room and searched his pants for money.

The judge found that Lewis' conduct "fits the definition of the outrageous or wantonly vile, horrible act."

Since the sentencing, lawyers for Lewis argued that new evidence had come to light that provided more information about Lewis' role in the crimes and that her original lawyers provided her with ineffective counsel because they didn't fully explore the ramifications of her low IQ.

Lewis was tested by a board-certified forensic psychiatrist who found her IQ to be in the borderline range of intellectual functioning, but not at the level of mental retardation.

But no court would overturn her sentence and Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell also rejected her appeal for clemency.

The case has garnered national attention. The Associated Press reported Tuesday that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad compared Lewis' case to that of an Iranian woman who had been sentenced to a death by stoning for adultery.

According to the AP, Ahmadinejad said in a speech to Islamic clerics in New York that while the Western press had covered the Iranian sentencing of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, "nobody objects to the case of an American woman who is going to be executed."

Popular novelist and lawyer John Grisham has written an op-ed for the Washington Post criticizing Virginia's implementation of the death penalty in Lewis' case.

"In this case, as in so many capital cases, the imposition of a death sentence had little to do with fairness," Grisham wrote. "Like other death sentences, it depended more upon the assignment of judge and prosecutor, the location of the crime, the quality of the defense counsel, the speed with which a co-defendant struck a deal, the quality of each side's experts and other such factors."

But Lewis' defenders disagree. "The evidence shows without a doubt that Teresa was being used by Shallenberger," said James E. Rocap III, a lawyer for Lewis. "Teresa has never engaged in any violent activity throughout her life, she has an exemplary prison record, deep remorse, and we think it is simply not right for the triggerman to get life, while Teresa is facing the death penalty."

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