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Friday Roundup

The machinery of death.  Teresa Lewis was executed by the State of Virginia last night, the first woman executed by that state in almost a century.  Her guilt is undeniable:  she hired a triggerman and an associate, two guys named Schallenberger and Fuller, to kill her husband and her 25-year-old stepson, the latter for his insurance money.  

But even if you're a supporter of capital punishment -- which I'm not -- this one's got to give you a bit of trouble.  Shortly after Lewis was confronted about the crimes, she broke down and confessed, and named Shallenberger and Fuller.  Fuller was quick; his attorneys brokered a deal to have him testify against the co-conspirators in exchange for life without parole.  Lewis' lawyers advised her to plead guilty, too; it was the same judge who'd sentenced Fuller, and they figured he'd give the same sentence.  They figured wrong.  The judge decided that Lewis, despite not having any criminal record or history of violence, was primarily culpable because she had "masterminded" the killings.  Shallenberger pled guilty in the middle of his trial, and also got life; the judge determined that it wouldn't be fair to sentence one triggerman to death and the other to life.

Turns out that "criminal mastermind" Teresa Lewis has an IQ of 70, and had a dependent personality order that allowed her to be played by others like a pipe organ.  Which is exactly what Shallenberger did; before committing suicide in prison in 2006, he acknowledged that he'd duped Lewis into the scheme:  "From the moment I met her I knew she was someone who could be easily manipulated. From the moment I met her I had a plan for how I could use her to get some money."

The governor of Virginia denied clemency the other day, and Teresa's last hope, the Supreme Court, denied her application to stay the execution.  Sotomayor and Ginsburg would've granted the stay.  New Justice Elena Kagan did not vote to do so.

Tell me some more about the "liberal wing" of the Supreme Court.

They don't do this on Law and OrderI mentioned a couple months back that, despite the technological acumen one would normally associate with somebody who runs his own blog, I've never sent a text message in my life.  I'll bet Kenneth R. Kratz, an attorney in Wisconsin, wishes he could say the same thing, after facing disciplinary action for sending several text messages to a young lady he encountered during the performance of his professional duties.  Well, not just any young lady; a "tall, young hot nympth" according to the one of the messages.  Another advised her that "'You are beautiful and would make a great young partner someday," and yet another queried, "'I would want you to be so hot and treat me so well that you'd be THE woman! R U that good?"

The problem was that Kratz, who at 50 was twice the woman's age, wasn't just any dirty old man, albeit one with a law degree.  He happened to be the Calumet County District Attorney.  And the woman he was communicating with wasn't somebody he met in a Starbucks; he happened to be prosecuting her boyfriend for domestic violence, and began sending her the text messages the day after he first interviewed her about the crime. 

I don't know what's worse; that or the fact that he's also the chairman of the state Crime Victim's Rights Board.

But Kratz isn't going down quietly.  After initially trying to keep the matter under wraps, then asserting that the texts were merely "complimentary," Krats finally 'fessed up to a "lapse of judgment."  Still, he insisted he wouldn't resign -- either as District Attorney or chairman of the victim's board -- and claimed that the Office of Lawyer Regulation had cleared him, a statement the director of the Office said he was prohibited from confirming or denying because of confidentiality rules.

I don't know what range of punishments is available should the Office determine that Kratz's conduct wasn't proper, but the article reporting all this notes that

Kratz also prosecuted four women who were charged last year with luring a man to a motel and gluing his penis to his abdomen as revenge for his cheating on one of them.

Sounds about right to me.

See you on Monday.

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