Saturday, September 4, 2010

An execution draws near in Virginia

I've been asked to post information about Teresa Lewis, a prisoner in Virginia who is scheduled to be executed later this month for the murder of her husband and his adult son.

Although mentally retarded, she was given the death sentence as the "mastermind" of these killings. The two men who carried out the killings were given life sentences.

Few issues are fraught with more politics than capital punishment. Yet this should not be about politics, but about justice. Honest people can disagree honestly on this.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a lengthy essay about my opposition to the death penalty, and how it has taken me a long time to get there. I would invite you to read that entry if you have not already (please click HERE).

Below is information provided by her defense team, who are asking that people of faith write letters to Governor Robert McDonnell asking that her sentence be commuted to life in prison. The Episcopal Church also opposes the death penalty. I would invite your consideration, your prayers, and your letters if you feel able. You can also learn more about the case by clicking HERE.

Here is the information from her defense team:

Teresa Lewis
Incomplete and inaccurate evidence led a judge to impose a death sentence on Teresa Lewis, whose IQ is in the 70-72 range, as the “mastermind” behind a plan to kill Lewis’s husband, Julian, and his adult son, C.J., for life insurance funds. The two men who actually committed the murders both were sentenced to life in prison.
Unbeknownst to Teresa’s sentencing judge, one of the killers had an IQ of 113 and boasted after the crimes that he was the mastermind of the crimes.
Teresa has lived alone in a segregation cell for seven years, separated from physical contact with other prisoners. Reverend Lynn Litchfield, a former prison chaplain to Teresa, has been inspired by Teresa who, despite severe restrictions, holds steadfastly to her faith and shares her love and support with women in the cells around her, ministering from behind a solid steel door with her kind words and beautiful singing voice. Prison officials say that when she sings hymns in her cell, the entire segregation wing calms. Teresa prays throughout her day for anyone she knows is in need.
Without your help, Teresa’s ministry will be cut short and she will be executed on September 23rd, 2010.
Teresa’s life and ministry should be allowed to continue and grace the lives of those around her. You can help save Teresa’s life by writing to Governor Robert F. McDonnell to ask that her sentence be commuted to life in prison without parole.
It is important to let the Governor know:
* that you are not seeking to excuse Teresa from punishment for her role in the killing of Julian and C.J. Lewis.
* that Teresa has only borderline intellectual functioning, with an IQ of 70-72.
* that the two actual murderers received life sentences and one of them, Matthew Shallenberger, confessed to a friend that he was the mastermind behind the murders.
* that you believe a decision to commute Teresa’s death sentence to life without parole is appropriate in this case and would support the Governor’s decision to do so.
Letters should be sent to:
The Honorable Robert F. McDonnell
Governor of Virginia
PO Box 1475
Richmond, VA 23218
The Governor can also be reached by email via his website at:
To learn more about Teresa please visit or search “Friends of Teresa Lewis” on Facebook.


Paula said...

I think our compassion is measured by our treatment of others.

Paula said...

I just emailed my petition to the governor, what are sentiments in Virginia regarding the Governor. Do you think you will commute her sentence to life in prison?

The Rev. James Richardson said...

Thanks for your comments and for sending your comment to the governor. The current governor was the state attorney general and is probably not likely to commute this sentence. But one never knows, and it is always worth trying.
Thanks again,

Lando said...

I have only just heard of this case. I have sent an email to the Virginia Governor pleading for a further examination and for him to commute her sentence. My prayers are with this woman who, while guilty, is clearly a woman who has been taken advantage of. I cannot imagine how they justify the sentencing of Teresa Lewis in comparison to her co-defendants. This is going to make me feel uneasy for some time now.