So far as we know, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani is still alive. We can’t say the same for Theresa Lewis, who was executed this past week in Virginia.
Of course, the point has been made and will continue to be made that Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s death sentence by Iranian officials for exercising her right over her own body is absurd because she should be able to choose if, when, and with whom she has sex. And no one should challenge the validity of that argument. Funny thing is, we could make the same case on Theresa Lewis’ behalf.
Ashtiani’s sentence had already solicited worldwide condemnation when the rumors began to spring up that the Vatican was considering a formal request to Iran to commute the death sentence she received when convicted of adultery.
If folks in the United States read foreign newspapers or even listened to the BBC, they’d know that the U.S. has received similar condemnations for executing a woman with an IQ of 72 who was convicted of giving sex and cash to two men in return for them killing her family. The men, by the way, were given life sentences for testifying that she “hired” them.
What is it with women and sex being so powerful? I work in a homeless shelter with a number of women who gladly give sex and their incomes to men in hopes that they’ll stay with the family, and still, the guys leave. Murder seems a far taller order than being home for dinner; but somehow Lewis “consummated” her deal with hit men who were in turn found less accountable than she for the murders they committed.
Think about what it means to have an IQ of 72. For starters, you’re literally no Einstein — Einstein’s IQ was around 170. The average range is 85 to 114 according to the Stanford-Binet scale, and most folks attain this IQ level sometime during junior high school with the average adult staying at that level throughout their lifetime.
Ms. Lewis’ IQ never went above 72. The Wechsler Intelligence Scale “classifies an IQ Score of 72 as borderline intelligence which is also considered borderline mental retardation.”
So here we have a woman with a permanent intelligence and intellectual maturation level somewhere in grammar school who finds a couple of guys and “seduces” them with her feminine wiles and some unknown amount of cash into killing two people. The men at no time do what so many people do: Take the lovin’ and the money and run. But the blood on their hands is less indicting than her developmentally delayed commands.
And we feel we have a right to criticize Iran!
Thanks specifically to the state of Virginia executing this first female death row inmate since 1912 — a mentally retarded one at that — and the U.S. penchant for capital punishment in general, we’ve ceded any moral high ground from which we may have criticized anyone.
Amnesty International keeps a list of the countries whose societies kill their undesirables. As of last year, the U.S. came in at number five for the most inmates executed for their crimes. It may not surprise you that the same country that likely supplied most of the toys in your house — China — executes the most.
In fact, a number of our individual states kill far more than most countries do. If Texas were a country unto itself, it would’ve come in eighth, somewhere between Sudan and Vietnam.
There are many discussions the Theresa Lewis execution should spur. One of them is the same discussion that Americans have had since Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani was sentenced. Why do we think women having sex is some sort of criminal manipulation of men?
Second, chat about whether you’d consider a developmentally delayed person responsible enough to housesit for you while you vacation, let alone lethally inject them for telling someone else to do something bad.
And the biggest discussion that our “civilized society” should readdress is why we have the death penalty in the first place. An eye for an eye is the only salient reason. And if that were the case, Virginia would just have asked someone to kill Lewis — they wouldn’t have done it themselves.
Pat LaMarche of Yarmouth is the author of “Left Out In America: The State of Homelessness in the United States.” She may be reached at PatLaMarche@hotmail.com.