Lisa Ann Coleman's tragic life was not enough to keep her off death row for the starvation death of her girlfriend's son, 9-year-old Davontae Williams.
A Tarrant County jury Wednesday rejected defense attorneys' emotional pleas to spare the life of a woman they said was a product of incest, neglected by her mother, bounced through foster homes and repeatedly raped by an uncle.
That was no excuse, prosecutor Mitch Poe said, for "the worst case of child abuse I've ever seen."
The jury took a little over three hours to decide that Ms. Coleman, 30, should be sentenced to death by injection. They also handed down a 99-year sentence on a separate charge of injury to a child.
She becomes the second woman in Tarrant County to be sentenced to death in the last year. She will join nine other women on Texas' death row.
Davontae, 9, of Arlington, was found starved two years ago at the apartment he shared with Ms. Coleman and his mother, Marcella Williams. Ms. Williams, 25, is awaiting trial on a capital murder charge.
Prosecutors said Davontae had a busted lip and 250 scars or wounds, and had been forced to live in an empty pantry while no one else in the house went hungry.
Davontae weighed 35 pounds when paramedics were called to the family's apartment on July 26, 2004.
Ms. Coleman's attorneys asked for mercy, saying she had endured an impoverished, abusive life similar to Davontae's.
"You have to look at whether there is a place for mercy for Lisa," said one of her attorneys, Michael Heiskell.
He held up Ms. Coleman's jail mug shot, telling the jury that it was the only photo he could find of her.
Mr. Poe, in his closing arguments, held up a school photo of Davontae and reminded the jury of the boy's starvation and abuse at the hands of Ms. Coleman and his mother.
"The death penalty is a statement we have to make occasionally," Mr. Poe said. "She was abused, but at some point, you have to take some responsibility."
Ms. Coleman was nicknamed "Pig" when she was a baby, and other children at school would make snorting noises to tease her, Mr. Heiskell said. He added that his client had been sexually abused and had gone for periods without food while she was young.
Tracey Binder of Fort Worth, Davontae's great-aunt, said she agreed with the jury's verdict.
"One down, one to go," she said. "There is no excuse for what happened to this kid. Justice was done. I've forgiven both of them. The hardest thing I've ever had to do was forgive them.
"Lisa needs to fess up. How can you torture someone and act like nothing happened? If you are really sorry, you need to confess."
Ms. Coleman, who did not testify at the trial or the punishment phase, showed no emotion when the verdict was read.
Witnesses called by defense attorneys told jurors Ms. Coleman was neglected and abused during her childhood. They also said Ms. Coleman is bipolar.
Paula Lundberg-Love, a licensed professional counselor, said Ms. Coleman began using marijuana at 13 and later used cocaine and ecstasy. Evidence also showed that Child Protective Services made six calls at the home where Davontae lived.
In 1999, the agency removed Davontae and his sister, who was then a toddler, after finding that the boy had been beaten with an extension cord.
Ms. Williams was later reunited with her children and began dodging caseworkers. The agency's final interview with Davontae was in October 2002 when the boy was enrolled at Webb Elementary School in Arlington.
The following month, Ms. Williams withdrew Davontae from Webb and told officials she was transferring him to a school in Fort Worth. Officials said they had no record of the boy's enrollment.
Ms. Coleman will join Chelsea Richardson from Tarrant County on death row. Ms. Richardson received a death sentence in August 2005 for the 2003 murders of her boyfriend's parents, Rick and Susanna Wamsley of Mansfield.