Ten years ago, a Texas woman was convicted and given the death penalty after a jury found her guilty of starving and torturing to death the 9-year-old son of her girlfriend. She was executed on Wednesday after a last-minute appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court was rejected.
Lisa Coleman, 38, was executed by lethal injection. At 6:24 p.m. CDT, she was pronounced dead – 12 minutes after a lethal dose of pentobarbital was administered by Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials. Coleman is the second woman and the ninth convicted murderer to be put to death by lethal injection this year in Texas.
Coleman was sentenced to die for the death in July 2004 of Davontae Williams. His emaciated body, with a disfigured ear and swollen hands, was discovered in his mother’s apartment in North Texas. First responders were shocked to discover that the 36-pound body belonged to a 9-year-old boy. After the examination of his body, a pediatrician found that Davontae had suffered over 250 different injuries ranging from cigar or cigarette burns to ligature marks. In addition, a golf club had been used to administer a beating.
Court records indicate that attempts to treat the boy with creams, ointments, over-the-counter medications and bandages had been made. The doctor also determined that he had stopped growing due to food deprivation. It appeared as though somebody had given Davontae Pedialyte and chicken noodle soup before he died but according to the testimony of a doctor at trial, the meal was given to the child “too late” and was “possibly too much” for the starving child to consume safely. The autopsy performed on the child listed his cause of death as pneumonia and malnutrition.
Prosecutor Dixie Bersano said at the time that “There was not an inch on his body that had not been bruised or scarred or injured.” Marcella Williams, mother of Davontae, accepted a plea bargain after learning of Coleman’s death sentence in 2006. She is serving a life sentence and will be eligible for parole when she is 63. According to Department of Criminal Justice officials, Coleman’s last statement expressed love for her family, her son and the “girls on the row.”
Davontae was born four months early and had development disabilities. He was removed from the home in 1999, along with his sister, Destinee, after it was revealed that an extension cord had been used to beat him and his mother admitted to CPS that they had used a cord to tie him up. He was placed in foster care, but was returned after Coleman promised that she would stay away from Williams and her children.
The lawyer for Coleman, John Stickels, argued before the Supreme Court that the reason Davontae’s hands had been tied with clothesline was due to “misguided” methods of “discipline” on the part of both Williams and Coleman. Because it was the kidnapping charge as an aggravated factor that caused Coleman to be eligible for the death penalty, Stickels argued that the conviction for capital murder was incorrect.
Since the 1976 Supreme Court ruling that allowed for the resumption of the death penalty in the U.S., only 14 women had been put to death before Coleman. In the same period of time, almost 1,400 men have been executed.
By Jennifer Pfalz