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Governor McDonnell to Announce Fate of Woman on Death Row

September 17, 2010

RICHMOND, Va. - Gov. McDonnell is expected to announce very soon whether or not he will commute the sentence of Teresa Wright, a woman who has been on Virginia's death row since pleading guilty to hiring two men to kill her husband and stepson for their life insurance money in October of 2002.

The Rev. Lynne Litchfield served as prison chaplain at Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women, where Wright has been held. She says the case may seem pretty cut-and-dried, but evidence gathered since Wright's conviction - such as her low IQ score (that of a 12-year-old) and a confession by one of the gunmen - show that her life should be spared.

"I think it's an unjust sentence now that we have letters from Matthew Shallenberger saying that he was clearly the mastermind of this, and we have affidavits from people that say Teresa was not the one in control, Mathew Shallenberger was."

Rev. Litchfield says that Wright has been remorseful in prison and has shown exemplary behavior. Proponents of her execution have cited that Wright allowed the murders to take place, but the Rev. Litchfield says an execution will not bring the victims back.

"If Teresa's execution takes place, our world will not be safer, our world will not be any better. In fact, I think it will be a little bit worse: This heinous crime will have cost one more life."

Both gunmen in the case were given life in prison, while Wright was given the death penalty. Litchfield believes Wright did not have the mental capacity to properly represent herself at the time of her conviction.

Stacey Johnson with Gov. McDonnell's office stated Thursday that the Governor will announce his decision today or by Saturday at the latest. Wright is scheduled to be executed on Sept. 23.

Wright is the only woman on death row in Virginia. If she is executed, she will be the first female to die by capital punishment in the state in nearly a century.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - VA