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Execution of US woman to go ahead

A woman convicted of two hired killings is scheduled to die by injection and become the first woman put to death in Virginia in nearly a century, after the US Supreme Court refused to block her execution.

Teresa Lewis, 41, was sentenced to death for providing sex and money to two men to kill her husband and stepson in October 2002 so she could collect on a 250,000 dollar (£159,000) insurance pay out. The nation's high court refused to intervene.

Two of the three women on the court, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, voted to stop the execution.

The decision followed Gov Bob McDonnell's refusal to reconsider a clemency request, which he rejected on Friday.

"A good and decent person is about to lose her life because of a system that is broken," said attorney James E Rocap III, who represents Lewis. He said he was referring to the decision by the Supreme Court and McDonnell's rejection of clemency.

Mr Rocap appealed on Monday to McDonnell to reconsider his decision to deny clemency to Lewis, claiming new evidence should spare Lewis the death penalty.

He argued that one of the gunmen later claimed he manipulated Lewis, who is borderline mentally retarded, "to dupe her into believing he loved her so that he could achieve his own selfish goals".

Mr McDonnell's legal counsel said the governor's decision would stand. Based on a thorough review, "the governor found no compelling reason to grant clemency and made a final decision," J Jasen Eige said in a letter to Mr Rocap.

The Virginia case has had repercussions as far away as Iran. An Iranian news agency reported that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused the West of launching a "heavy propaganda" campaign against the case of an Iranian woman who had been sentenced to be stoned to death for adultery but failing to react with outrage over the imminent execution of Lewis in Virginia.

Lewis pleaded guilty in May 2003 to two counts of capital murder for hire in the murders of her husband Julian Lewis and her stepson, Charles Lewis. The gunmen, Matthew Shallenberger and Rodney Fuller, were sentenced to life terms. Shallenberger, who Mr Rocap names as the mastermind, committed suicide in prison in 2006.

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