Teresa Lewis' husband, Julian, lay on the bedroom floor, bleeding and gasping while she stood in the kitchen of their Pittsylvania County mobile home, pulling money from his wallet and handing it to Matthew Shallenberger, the man who had just committed the murder with a shotgun she paid for. Her stepson Charles was already dead, killed by another man, Rodney Fuller, with another shotgun bought with Lewis' money. Shallenberger handed some of the money from the wallet to Fuller.
Shallenberger told Teresa Lewis he was sorry she had to go through this. Nearly an hour later, Lewis dialed to report that her husband and stepson had been killed by an intruder.
When sheriff's deputies arrived more than 20 minutes later, they found Julian Lewis was still alive. That was the day before Halloween, Shallenberger and Fuller are serving life sentences for the killings. Teresa Lewis, who pleaded guilty to hiring the killers, is now the lone woman on Virginia's death row. The first woman executed in Virginia was Jane Chapman, hanged in The only woman Virginia has executed since was year-old Gennie Christian, electrocuted in Atwell is a professor of criminal justice at Radford University.
Her latest book, "Wretched Sisters: Examining Gender and Capital Punishment," analyzes the stories of the 11 women who have been executed since the United States reinstituted the death penalty -- and it comes to conclusions about why those executions occurred.
So you're going through a huge filter by the time you get down to these few people who are actually put to death. For Atwell, the answer is clear: But Atwell argues that being a bad mother or a bad wife -- violating societal ideals of women's roles -- is what condemns her.
Women are executed, Atwell says in her book, because they are "not womanly enough. A United Nations panel recently voted overwhelmingly for a worldwide suspension of executions. Though 25 countries executed someone last year, more than 90 percent of the executions took place in six countries: At the end of last year, more than 3, people were on death row in the 39 states that have the death penalty.
Fifty-eight of them were women. Lewis, 38, has been on Virginia's death row since June 4, Impaired 'masterminds' Julian Lewis' first wife died after a long illness in January Three or four months later, he met Teresa Bean. They both worked for Dan River Inc. In June that year, Bean moved in with Lewis.
Lewis' oldest son, Jason, died in a car wreck the next year. They hatched a plan to kill her husband and her stepson and split the money. Lewis took her year-old daughter to meet the men in a Danville parking lot.
Lewis had sex with Shallenberger in one car while her daughter had sex with Fuller in another, according to the court documents. Later, Fuller and Shallenberger came to the trailer Lewis shared with her husband, where she performed what court papers describe as a "lingerie show" before having sex with both men. In rejecting Lewis' appeal, Leroy Hassell, chief justice of Virginia's Supreme Court, called her "the mastermind of these gruesome murders," though intelligence tests showed her to have "borderline intellectual functioning.
Several of the women in her book were on the border of mental retardation or addicted to painkillers or antidepressants or some other drug that addled their thinking, but were still deemed "masterminds. She doesn't argue that gender is the major obstacle a woman on trial for her life must overcome.
But it is an added burden, Atwell says. Susan Smith drowned her two children and claimed a black man had abducted them. Smith, an attractive woman who could afford a good attorney, will be eligible for parole after 30 years in a South Carolina prison. Christina Riggs smothered her two children, then tried to commit suicide. She was indigent and obese. Arkansas executed Riggs 18 months after her conviction.
There are many flaws in the system, in Atwell's eyes. At least 30 percent of the people in the United States are automatically barred from jury duty in capital cases, because those juries must be "death qualified," meaning every member must be willing to vote for execution.
Asking that question at the beginning of the trial implies guilt, Atwell said. In the 11 cases she examined, juries sometimes didn't seem to understand they could punish defendants with anything short of death. They seemed to have trouble understanding what was meant by "mitigating" and "aggravating" factors. The emotion and fear that generally surround a capital case makes it difficult for the system to operate as fairly as it should, she said.
And then there are political considerations. Prosecutors, governors and sometimes judges are elected, and subject to being swayed by political opinion rather than the law. It makes several references to her being the wife of one victim and the stepmother of the other. It talks about Lewis' involving her daughter and encouraging her to have sex with a killer. It recounts her sexual encounters with the killers.
Ironically, Lewis' appeal argued that she shouldn't be put to death because Virginia has never executed a woman without a violent criminal history who accepted responsibility and was the contractor, not the killer.
The appeal also argued that it was unfair that the men who did the killing got life sentences when she would be executed. The court ruled that last point irrelevant. As for Virginia's history of executing women, the court said, "All criminal statutes in this Commonwealth must be applied without regard to gender.
Therefore, we decline the defendant's invitation to apply Virginia's capital murder statutes in a discriminatory fashion based upon gender. District court granted a stay of execution to allow time for federal courts to hear her appeal.