Teresa Lewis is scheduled to be executed September 23, 2010

The Richmond Anarchist Black Cross will be attending a protest against the death penalty on Broad Street in front of the Governor’s Office at 1111 West Broad from 4-6 on September 23rd. The organization Virginian’s Against the Death Penalty may also be there.

We encourage people who can not attend, as well as those who can, to call the Governor’s office and email as well to let them know that you object to the execution. From the Virginians Against the Death Penalty (www.vadp.org): ACTION #1: Contact the Governor RIGHT NOW.

The most effective way to communicate your message at this stage is to write a letter asking the governor to grant clemency by commuting Bell’s death sentence to life without the possibility of parole.

Office of the Governor
Patrick Henry Building, 3rd Floor
1111 East Broad Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219

You can also contact the governor by telephone and/or fax. If you live in Virginia, be sure to start by stating your name and where you live.

Phone: (804) 786-2211

Fax: (804) 371-6351

The Richmond Anarchist Black Cross is an autonomous Collective committed to prison abolition and prisoner support. As anarchists we are oppossed to all systems of oppression and repression and have concluded that prisons serve no positive function in society. We actively seek to abolish the institutionalized slavery of the Prison Industrial Complex. We are dedicated to working in solidarity with prisoners and drawing connections between a multitude of struggles.

About Teresa Lewis:

Below is a press release from her attorneys:
Virginia Set to Execute Woman with 72 IQ As “Mastermind” of Husband’s Murder

Lives of Two Actual Killers Spared

Media Contact:
Alex Howe, newsPRos 202 271 7997, alex@newspros.com or
Jamie Moss, 201 788 0142, Jamie@newspros.com
The Commonwealth of Virginia this morning ordered Teresa Lewis’s execution to take place on September 23, at 9:00 p.m. at Greensville Correctional Center. Lewis has been on death row in Virginia since June 2003. Now 41 and a mother and grandmother, she is described by her former prison chaplain as “loving, faithful, and child-like.” She would be the first woman executed in Virginia since 1912.

In June 2003, incomplete and inaccurate evidence led a judge to impose the death sentence on Teresa Lewis, who has an IQ of 72, as the “mastermind” behind a plan to kill Lewis’s husband, Julian Lewis, and his adult son C.J. The two men who actually committed the murders were sentenced to life in prison.

“We firmly believe that Teresa should not be put to death based on inaccurate and incomplete information that she was the ‘mastermind’ in the deaths,” said Jim Rocap, partner at Steptoe & Johnson in Washington, DC, who has been representing Teresa for the past 6 years.
“Tragically, the judge who sentenced Teresa never had an accurate picture of how the crimes came to be,” Rocap added. “Due largely to procedural technicalities, none of the courts that have looked at Teresa’s case have been allowed to consider evidence that dramatically reduces Teresa’s culpability. The Governor will be the only person who has had an opportunity to consider evidence, for example, that the actual killer admitted that Teresa was not in fact the person who planned the murders and that he boasted about using Teresa to get Julian’s money. Anyone who looks at all the evidence will see that Teresa’s death sentence is based on an incomplete and inaccurate account of the crimes.”

Teresa was 33 years old when she met Matthew Shallenberger, a 21 year-old with an IQ of 113. He had just completed a brief stint in the U.S. Army. According to a report by a psychologist who evaluated Shallenberger just after the murders, Shallenberger was “tall and lean” with a “carefully messed-to-look-stylish quaff of hair.” The psychologist said Shallenberger was “unusually bright” and “difficult to interview.” Shallenberger “thoroughly enjoyed a verbal cat-and-mouse game . . . finding ways to answer questions by not answering them and then smiling.” The psychologist reported that Shallenberger “boasted of dreams of becoming a “hitman” for the Mafia. Shallenberger initially denied involvement in the murders but later “insisted it was he who was in control of [the] relationship [with Teresa] and he who was the mastermind of the offense.”

Shallenberger explained to a friend that Teresa was “just what I was looking for: some ugly bitch who married her husband for the money and I knew I could get to fall head over heals [sic] for me.” Although married to Julian, Teresa soon began to visit Shallenberger at his trailer. She showered him with gifts and money, and even sent a dozen red roses to him, attempting to gain his affection. When Teresa complained about abusive treatment from her husband, Shallenberger made a plan to kill Julian, telling Teresa that he would use Julian’s money to run away with Teresa and start a new life. In reality, Shallenberger was involved with two other women at the time and considered his involvement with Teresa “just part of what had to be done to get the money.” He boasted to friends that he planned to head to New York, meet with his “connections,” and become a “hit man” for the Mafia.

People who have known Teresa throughout her life have testified that she has never lived on her own, is incapable of buying more than one day’s worth of groceries at a time, and cannot balance a checkbook. Following surgeries for painful medical conditions, in the year before the murders Teresa became addicted to prescription medications.

Dr. Elinore McKance-Katz, a specialist in prescription drug addiction, testified in 2005 (after the death sentence had been imposed) that Teresa suffered from “severe addiction” including opioid dependence, sedative hypnotic dependence, and anxiolytic dependence. This impaired Teresa’s judgment, she explained, and negatively affected the functioning of her cortex and frontal lobes, the areas of the brain responsible for thinking, reasoning, judgment, and executive function. Teresa also was diagnosed with dependent personality disorder, which manifested itself in her need for attention, approval and validation from men. Dr. Philip Costanzo, a Duke University psychologist who also examined Teresa after sentence was imposed, concluded that “Teresa’s intellectual limitations are magnified by her tendency toward a socially naïve, passively compliant and inadequate style of relating. Her need for affirmation and validation from men reduces further any ability . . . that she might have to independently reason.” Both Dr. McCance-Katz and Dr. Costanzo said it was highly unlikely that Teresa would have the intellectual capacity to plan and direct the murders.

Shallenberger enlisted Antwain Bennett, a 19 year-old high school drop-out, to purchase shotguns with money Shallenberger got from Teresa. He first planned to kill Julian on his way home from work and tricked Rodney Fuller, the other triggerman, into accompanying him. When that plan failed, Teresa was told to leave the door to her home unlocked on October 30, 2002, and Shallenberger and Fuller then entered and shot Julian and C.J.

Teresa was unable to keep to Shallenberger’s plan to obtain the money he wanted. Teresa bungled attempts to retrieve Julian’s cash and C.J.’s insurance, including presenting an obviously forged check to the bank. When she was questioned by police, she could not keep to a story and quickly confessed her involvement and alerted police to Shallenberger and Fuller.

Prosecutors agreed to a life sentence for Fuller. When he later sentenced Shallenberger, the judge assigned to all three cases explained that he could not “in good conscience” impose a sentence on Shallenberger that was more severe than what Fuller had received, and then sentenced Shallenberger to life in prison.

Teresa pled guilty. Based on the prosecutor’s summary of evidence, and without knowledge of critical information set out above, the same judge described her as the “head of the serpent” and sentenced her to death.
Teresa has been in a segregation cell for seven years. A former prison chaplain notes that, although prohibited from direct contact with other inmates, Teresa holds steadfastly to her faith and shares her love and support with women in the cells around her, ministering with her kind words and beautiful voice. When she sings hymns in her cell, the entire segregation wing calms. Teresa prays throughout her day for anyone she thinks might be in need.

“The Commonwealth should not carry out a death sentence like Teresa’s, which was imposed on the basis of inaccurate and incomplete information,” says Rocap. “The truth about her involvement in the tragic deaths of Julian and C.J. Lewis does not require or justify her execution, especially in light of the fact that the lives of those who actually gunned down Julian and C.J. were spared.”

Rocap added, “Teresa’s life and prison ministry should be allowed to continue and grace the lives of those around her. Please join us by calling and writing the Governor, by signing an email petition in support of sparing Teresa’s life, and by sharing Teresa’s story with others.”

For more information about Teresa and her case, please visit: http://www.saveteresalewis.org.
And on Facebook, visit: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Friends-of-Teresa-Lewis/104370726282292

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