A Texas woman convicted of the starvation and torture death of her girlfriend’s 9-year-old son a decade ago was executed Wednesday evening.
Lisa Coleman, 38, received a lethal injection about an hour after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a last-day appeal to spare her. She was pronounced dead at 6:24 p.m. CDT, 12 minutes after Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials began administering a lethal dose of pentobarbital.
Coleman became the ninth convicted killer and second woman to receive lethal injection in Texas this year. Nationally, she’s the 15th woman executed since the Supreme Court in 1976 allowed the death penalty to resume. During that same time, nearly 1,400 men have been put to death.
Coleman smiled and nodded to several friends and an aunt who watched through a window, thanking them and expressing her love. She also said she loved the other women on Texas’ death row and urged them to “keep their heads up.”
“I’m all right,” she said. “Tell them I finished strong. … God is good.”
She mouthed an audible kiss, laughed and nodded to her witnesses in the seconds before the lethal drug took effect.
“Love you all,” she said just before closing her eyes and taking a couple of short breaths. Then there was no further movement.
Coleman was condemned for the death of Davontae Williams, whose emaciated body was found in July 2004 at the North Texas apartment Coleman shared with his mother, Marcella Williams.
Paramedics who found him dead said they were shocked to learn his age. He weighed 36 pounds, about half that of a normal 9-year-old. A pediatrician later would testify that he had more than 250 distinct injuries, including burns from cigarettes or cigars and scars from ligatures, and that a lack of food made him stop growing.
“There was not an inch on his body that not been bruised or scarred or injured,” said Dixie Bersano, one of Coleman’s trial prosecutors.
Coleman’s trial attorneys said the boy’s death at the apartment in Arlington was an accident. They said he may have had mental health issues that made him difficult to handle and Coleman and Williams didn’t know how to deal with him in a positive manner.
After a Tarrant County jury in 2006 convicted and sent Coleman to death row, Williams took a plea bargain and accepted a life prison sentence. Now 33, she’s not eligible for parole until 2044.
Coleman’s lawyer, John Stickels, argued unsuccessfully to the high court that while the child’s hands were tied with clothesline at various times, it was “mostly a misguided means of discipline” used by both women. An aggravated factor of kidnapping, which made the charge against Coleman a capital murder case, was incorrect, making the jury’s conviction on that charge also incorrect, Stickels contended.
Jefferson Clendenin, an assistant Texas attorney general, told the justices in his argument against the appeal that Coleman’s arguments “had no merit.”
As of Jan. 1, 60 women were on death row in the U.S., representing about 2 percent of the total death row population, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, a Washington-based anti-capital punishment organization. Coleman’s execution leaves seven women on death row in Texas.