24 September, 2010

Virginia executed Teresa Lewis

The U.S. state of Viriginia has executed Teresa Lewis - Telegraph 24th September 2010.  As mentioned in the post below, it beggars belief that any supposedly civilised society can be wedded to the death penalty and yet many of the individual U.S. States continue to be.  For instance, since 1976, Texas has carried out 463 executions and Virginia 107.  Information about the death penalty in the USA may be read at - Death Penalty Information Centre.

Even adherents to the death penalty ought to recognise the fundamental unfairness in executing Lewis when the men involved received life imprisonment sentences.  The difference is explained by the view that Lewis was the mastermind or, as the sentencing judge put it, "the head of the serpent".  A further serious concern related to her mental state.  Most reports indicate that she had an IQ of 72.  Below 70 appears to amount to "mental retardation" and the execution of a mentally retarded person would be unconstitutional - (a "cruel and unusual punishment" in breach of the 8th amendment) - see Atkins v Virginia 536 US 304 (2002).  There is actually no definite method of measuring human intelligence and the use of IQ is very problematic - see, for example, here.  Even if one accepted IQ as a measurement, it is not possible to measure it with such precision that it ought to be used as a test determining issues of life or death.

The execution of Lewis does no credit to the law in Virginia or the USA.  At a fundamental level, the execution will not have made Virginia a better place and will not prevent future murders.


Since 1976, the USA has executed 1214 men and 12 women.  Murder continues to be committed.

Writing in The Washington Post 12th September, the lawyer and author John Grisham analysed the Lewis case.  He wrote - "In this case, as in so many capital cases, the imposition of a death sentence had little do with fairness.  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.

In Virginia, the law is hardly consistent. There have been other cases with similar facts -- a wife and her lover scheme to kill her husband for his money or for life insurance proceeds. But there is no precedent for the wife being sentenced to death. Such inconsistencies mock the idea that ours is a system grounded in equality before the law" 

Further links:

Death Penalty Information Centre

U.K. based United States Death Penalty Training courses.

The work of AMICUS to assist lawyers working on U.S. death penalty cases is vital.  Their website merits a good look and their work merits support.

Law and Lawyers - the Linda Carty case.

2 comments:

gyg3s said...

"There is actually no definite method of measuring human intelligence and ..."

Neither is there a scientifically objective definition of human intelligence.

Intelligence is a subjective construct only existing within our society's collective imagination.

ObiterJ said...

@ gyg3s - I agree entirely.