Teresa Lewis: Calculating or Compromised?

Julie Marsh
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Last night, Teresa Lewis was executed in Virginia for her role in the murder of her husband and stepson. She died by lethal injection in spite of pleas by groups such as the Virginia Catholic Conference and the ARC to have her sentence commuted to life in prison.

What's particularly interesting about Lewis' case is her mental capacity. Some have argued that Teresa Lewis could not have possibly played the role of instigator in this crime that Virgina Governor Robert F. McDonnell claims she did.

Why? Because her IQ of 72 classifies her as borderline mentally retarded, "with the intellectual ability of about a 13-year-old."

Her crime is horrific, no doubt. Even though she didn't actually murder her husband and stepson, she conspired with the two killers, facilitated the act, and waited an hour -- while her husband writhed in pain from his wounds -- to call 911. She eventually confessed and took police to her conspirators.

But did she really conspire to kill her husband and stepson? Or was she simply a means to an end, manipulated by the killers without truly understanding the gravity of their plan and the possible consequences? Did she feel as if she didn't have a choice, couldn't say no? Some argue that because of her low IQ, Lewis was incapable of functioning as an independent adult, and should have been afforded protection from the death penalty accordingly.

Lewis definitely belonged in prison. I'm not sure she belonged on the gurney. But I do believe that the two killers -- Rodney Fuller and Matthew Shallenberger -- should have been next to her. It makes no sense to me that the actual perpetrators, who may very well have coerced Lewis into facilitating the crime, should be sentenced to life while she was sentenced to die.

 

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