Gissendaner Execution: Despite Pope’s Request, Clemency Denied By Paroles Board

Gissendaner Execution: Despite Pope’s Request, Clemency Denied By Paroles Board
Death Noose Global Panorama / Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0
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A request for clemency by the only woman on Georgia’s death row was denied by the state’s parole board.


The request for clemency by Kelly Gissendaner, who is to be given the lethal injection at 7 p.m. EDT at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, came just hours before she was to be executed. On Tuesday, Georgia’s Board of Pardons and Paroles met to decide whether the refusal to change her death sentence to life in prison should stand. Gissendaner’s children – Brandon Brookshire, Kayla Gissendaner and Dakota Gissendaner – were present in the hearing. The appeal for clemency highlighted Gissendaner’s model behavior in prison and remorse for plotting the murder of her husband, Douglas Gissendaner, in 1997.

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Meanwhile, a letter arrived from the representative for Pope Francis supporting staying of Gassendaner’s execution. “While not wishing to minimize the gravity of the crime for which Ms. Gissendaner has been convicted, and while sympathizing with the victims, I nonetheless implore you, in consideration of the reasons that have been presented to your Board, to commute the sentence to one that would better express both justice and mercy,” the letter reads.

According to CNN, Gissendaner will be the state’s first female inmate to be put to death in 70 years.

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Attorney Susan Casey said Gissendaner’s children are “heartbroken.” Casey further said, “We asked the board for an additional 24 hours so they could visit their mother. That was refused.” Supporters also took to social media to show their support, to halt the execution, using the hashtag #KellyOnMyMind.

The family of Gissendaner’s husband said he was the victim in this matter, not her. In a statement, they said, “Kelly planned and executed Doug’s murder. She targeted him and his death was intentional. Kelly chose to have her day in court and after hearing the facts of this case, a jury of her peers sentenced her to death.”

It further said, “As the murderer, she’s been given more rights and opportunity over the last 18 years than she ever afforded to Doug, who, again, is the victim here. She had no mercy, gave him no rights, no choices, nor the opportunity to live his life. His life was not hers to take.”

However, Gissendaner’s lawyers argued that the death sentence is not in accordance with the crime because she was not present at the time of the murder. Her then boyfriend, Gregory Owen – the man responsible for kidnapping and killing Douglas – is serving a life sentence.

Also read: Three Death Row Inmates To Be Given Execution Dates After US Supreme Court Backs Use Of Controversial Drug

Gissendaner’s children pleaded to the authorities to show her mercy. In a statement, Kayla said, “My dad would not want my mom to be executed, even knowing her role in his murder. He would not want us to endure another devastating loss.” Kayla further said that the past 18 months has brought a change in her mother. “I had to face what my mom had done and find a way to forgive her. In the process, I saw that my mom had struggled through the years to come to grips with what she had done and face her own horror about her actions.”

In February, her execution was called off due to bad weather, as reported by Reuters. It was called off for a second time in March after the lethal injection drug noticeably appeared “cloudy.”

A petition signed by more than 90,000 people calls for Governor Nathan Deal to stay Gassendaner’s execution. “While incarcerated, she has been a pastoral presence to many, teaching, preaching and living a life of purpose,” the petition reads. “Kelly is a living testament to the possibility of change and the power of hope. She is an extraordinary example of the rehabilitation that the corrections system aims to produce.”

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