Texas has executed a 38-year-old woman who was sent to death row for starving her girlfriend's 9-year-old son to death nearly a decade ago. Lisa Ann Coleman died by lethal injection shortly after 6 p.m. tonight at the state execution chamber in Huntsville, Texas. She's only the 15th woman to be executed in the United States since 1976, when the Supreme Court allowed the death penalty to resume.
Coleman lived with her girlfriend, Marcella Williams, and Williams' three children, including nine-year-old Devontae, at an apartment complex in North Texas. Devontae's lifeless body, dressed in a diaper, was discovered by paramedics in July of 2004. He weighed just 36 pounds and was covered in scars and injuries, more than 250 in all. Due to the boy's small size, paramedics initially believed he was just three to five years old. They said many of his injuries were burns from cigarettes or cigars. The medical examiner's office later ruled that the boy died from malnutrition. Williams had previously been investigated at least six other times by Child Protective Services for alleged abuse against the boy.
Evidence presented at Coleman's 2006 trial suggested that she and Williams sometimes tied Devontae's hands with a clothesline to discipline him. They also didn't allow him to have visitors, and told others he wasn't at the apartment when he was there. Prosecutors argued that amounted to kidnapping, allowing them to seek the death penalty.
Her appellate attorney John Stickels argued, though, that Coleman was given an unduly harsh sentence. Marcella Williams, the boy's mother, reached a plea deal and is serving a life sentence. She'll be first eligible for parole in 2044, when she's 66 years old. Stickels said Coleman wasn't ever offered a plea, telling the Fort-Worth Star Telegram, "What [Coleman] is really guilty of is being a black lesbian. If she is executed, it will be because of her sexual orientation. I have hope that I can save her."
Earlier today, though, the Supreme Court declined to issue a stay of execution for Coleman. Her reported last words, directed at a fellow inmate, were, "Tell them I finished strong." Reporter Richard Ray of KDFW, the member of the media allowed to witness the execution, called it "very peaceful." Five of Coleman's family members were there to witness her death; no one showed up to represent Devontae Williams.
[Image via Associated Press]