Teresa Lewis Executed; Kagan Broke with Female Colleagues in Stay Vote
Justice Elena Kagan broke ranks with her female colleagues and voted to deny a stay of execution for Teresa Lewis, who died by lethal injection in Virginia Thursday evening.
The only justices who voted in favor of a stay were Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, the blog Sentencing Law and Policy reports. According to the blog, Kagan’s vote may concern liberals but please those who hope she will be “a shrewd junior justice who will build bridges/allies among more conservative justices.”
Lewis, 41, was the first woman executed in the last five years in the United States, the Associated Press reports. She was convicted for paying two lovers to kill her husband and stepson to collect on a $250,000 life insurance policy.
Legal author John Grisham wrote an opinion column calling Lewis’ case “another glaring example of the unfairness of our death penalty system.” On the advice of her lawyers, Lewis pleaded guilty after cooperating with authorities, but she was nonetheless sentenced to death. The two triggermen got life in prison.
A judge found that Lewis was more culpable because she had masterminded the murder plot. But experts doubted that Lewis, who is borderline retarded, had the mental abilities to lead the conspiracy, Grisham said.