This past Thursday, Teresa Lewis was put to death by lethal injection in the name of the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Lewis was convicted of masterminding the murder of her husband and stepson in 2002, motivated by her acquisition of a $250,000 life insurance policy that her stepson had taken out.
Though Virginia had not executed a woman since 1912, it currently ranks second, behind only Texas, for the most executions in the country since the Supreme Court lifted the ban on capital punishment in 1976.
Of all the numerous injustices that allowed Lewis to be savagely murdered by the state, the most striking is her obvious mental incompetence.
Throughout the course of the trial, several psychiatric experts tested Lewis’s cognitive abilities.
It became evident that Lewis, whose IQ was 72, was incapable of planning this crime as the prosecutors said she did.
In fact, her psychological competence was far below the mental retardation line in areas of “planning” and “forward thinking.”
Though the Supreme Court declared the execution of those who fall at or below the mental retardation line (which is set at an IQ of 70) unconstitutional in Atkins v. Virginia (2002), it seems as though the Constitution cannot protect people who have an IQ two points above that.
Of all the horrors this case brings to light regarding the criminal justice system in the United States, the most terrifying is the incompetence of our so-called legal protectors.
Lewis pleaded before the Supreme Court for a stay of execution, but the court felt as though her murder was still the prerogative of the state.
In a far less surprising decision, Gov. Bob McDonnell (who has never made his bloodlust a secret) denied Lewis’ plea for clemency, disregarding the 7,300 appeals his office received.
Where are we to turn for protection when our protectors show, at best, rampant incompetence and at worst downright savagery?
The tragic murder of Lewis brings to light the need for this country to once again open a debate regarding the death penalty.
Coupled with such issues as abortion, same-sex marriage or flag burning, the debate over capital punishment seems to serve only the electoral victory of politicians.
But these are not issues that exist to serve the arrogance of our rulers.
They are issues that are at the heart of the values we are supposed to hold in the highest esteem.