The U.S. state of Georgia executed its only woman on death row on Wednesday, marking the first time in 70 years the state has carried out a death sentence on a woman, a prison official said.
Kelly Gissendaner, 47, died by lethal injection at 12:21 a.m. EDT at Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, a prison spokeswoman said.
Gissendaner was sentenced to death after being convicted of what is known in the state as malice murder for her role in plotting the killing of her husband, Douglas, in 1997.
Pope Francis, who concluded a six-day U.S. trip on Sunday and is an outspoken opponent of the death penalty, had urged officials to commute her death sentence.
Gissendaner's execution marks the first death sentence carried out against a woman in Georgia in 70 years. She was the 16th woman executed in the United States since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday denied last-minute requests for a stay of execution.
The state's Board of Pardons and Paroles met on Tuesday to decide whether its refusal earlier this year to commute Gissendaner's sentence to life in prison should stand.
Board members were not swayed by her latest appeal for clemency, which emphasized her model behavior in prison and her remorse. Her lawyers also noted she was not present when the crime was committed.
The man who carried out the kidnapping and murder, Kelly Gissendaner's then-boyfriend, Gregory Owen, received a life sentence.
Rev. Cathy Zappa, an Episcopal priest who taught Gissendaner through a prison theology program, had said Gissendaner was scared but had not wavered in her belief in God.
Prison spokeswoman Lisa Rodriguez-Presley said Gissendaner requested a final prayer before she died.
Gissendaner's supporters included her three adult children and a former Georgia Supreme Court justice who says he was wrong to deny one of Gissendaner's earlier appeals.
But the family of Doug Gissendaner said Kelly Gissendaner showed him no mercy.
"As the murderer," the family said in a statement before the execution, "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."
Gissendaner's scheduled execution was called off in February due to bad weather affecting roads and again in March when officials noticed what they believed was a problem with the injection drug they were about to use.
Source: Reuters, David Beasley, Sept.30, 2015
Georgia inmate Kelly Gissendaner executed after failed appeals
|Protesting Kelly Gissendaner's execution at Georgia Diagnostic|
and Classification Prison in Jackson, Ga, Sept. 30, 2015.
She died at 12:21 a.m. ET, the Georgia Department of Corrections said.
Gissendaner was scheduled to die at 7 p.m. Tuesday, but her lawyers filed multiple requests to the U.S. Supreme Court to try to spare her life. Each attempt failed.
The 47-year-old was convicted of murder for convincing her lover to kill her husband in 1997.
Pleas from Gissendaner's children and a recent letter on behalf of the Pope weren't enough to sway the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole, which denied clemency for the inmate earlier Tuesday.
Attorney Susan Casey said Gissendaner's children were "heartbroken."
"We asked the board for an additional 24 hours so they could visit their mother," she said. "That was refused."
Gissendaner was Georgia's first female convict to be executed in 70 years.
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Sourc: CNN, Catherine E. Shoichet, Holly Yan and Moni Basu, September 30, 2015
Kelly Gissendaner: Georgia executes first woman for 70 years despite last-minute appeals
|Gate to the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson.|
Georgia has executed Kelly Renee Gissendaner with a fatal injection for the slaying of her husband, despite a plea for clemency from their children.
Last-minute appeals from her lawyers to the 11th US circuit court of appeals and the US supreme court as well as the Georgia board of pardons and paroles all failed.
Gissendaner, 47, died by injection of pentobarbital at 12:21am EDT on Wednesday at Georgia Diagnostic and Classification prison in Jackson, a prison spokeswoman said.
She sobbed as she said she loved her children and apologized to the family of her husband Douglas Gissendaner, who she was convicted of conspiring to murder, saying she hoped they could find some peace and happiness.
She also addressed her lawyer, Susan Casey, who was among the witnesses.
“I just want to say God bless you all and I love you, Susan. You let my kids know I went out singing Amazing Grace,” Gissendaner said, according to Associated Press.
The corrections department said she turned down an optional sedative ahead of the execution.
She was the first woman executed in Georgia for 70 years and the sixteenth across the US since the supreme court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.
The board of pardons and parole had received a letter on behalf of Pope Francis urging them not to allow Gissendaner’s execution, the first since the pope’s address to the US Congress last week in which he called on the United States to abolish the death penalty. Gissendaner’s is one of six executions scheduled over the next nine days across the US, including that of Richard Glossip in Oklahoma on Wednesday afternoon.
Gissendaner was convicted of conspiring with her lover, Gregory Owen, who ambushed her husband, forced him to drive to a remote area and stabbed him repeatedly in February 1997. Owen and Gissendaner then met up and set fire to the dead man’s car.
Owen pleaded guilty and testified against Gissendaner, who did not take part in the stabbing. He is serving a life sentence and becomes eligible for parole in 2022.
It was Gissendaner’s third scheduled execution date. Her first, on 25 February, was called off because of the threat of winter weather. A second, on 2 March, was called off “out of an abundance of caution” when corrections officials found the drug to be used in her execution appeared “cloudy”.
The department of corrections then temporarily suspended executions until a drug analysis could be done. Corrections officials have said a pharmacological expert told them the most likely cause of the formation of solids in the compounded pentobarbital was shipping and storage at a temperature that was too cold, but they noted that storage at a low temperature does not always cause pentobarbital to precipitate.
Gissendaner’s three children, Dakota, Kayla and Brandon, had sought clemency for their mother and earlier this month released a video pleading for her life to be spared. They detailed their own journeys to forgiving her and said they would suffer terribly from having a second parent taken from them.
Douglas Gissendaner’s family said in a statement Monday that he is the victim and that Kelly Gissendaner received an appropriate sentence.
Gissendaner had requested a last meal of cheese dip with chips, Texas fajita nachos and a diet frosted lemonade.
Various courts, including the US supreme court denied multiple last-ditch efforts to stop her execution on Tuesday night, and the parole board stood by its February decision to deny clemency. The board didn’t give a reason for the denial, but said it had carefully considered her request for reconsideration.
Gissendaner’s lawyers submitted a statement from former Georgia supreme court chief justice Norman Fletcher to the parole board. Fletcher argued Gissendaner’s death sentence was not proportionate to her role in the crime. He also noted that Georgia hadn’t executed a person who didn’t actually carry out a killing since the supreme court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.
She was the first woman executed in Georgia in 70 years. Lena Baker, a black maid, was executed in 1945 after being convicted in a one-day trial of killing her white employer. Georgia officials issued her a pardon in 2005 after six decades of lobbying and arguments by her family that she likely killed the man because he was holding her against her will.
Gissendaner becomes the 2nd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Georgia and the 58th overall since the state resumed capital punishment in 1983.
Gissendaner becomes the 21st condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1415th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.
Source: The Guardian, staff and agencies, September 30, 2015
A Media Witness – 11Alive’s Jeff Hullinger’s Personal Account Of Kelly Gissendaner’s Execution
Jeff Hullinger was an official witness to the execution of Kelly Gissendaner in the early hours of this morning. He reported the events leading up to the execution via twitter. While neither trying to be the story nor report a personal opinion point of view, it’s clear that he assumed this role demonstrating a very transparent human quality. The experience was clearly not one of joy for him, nor one to be sensatinalized or hyped. Instead, he did exactly what the role requires: He gave a window to a horrible event that all among us wish were unnecessary or did not happen. Below are his words, prepared for us, in witness for what he observed.
We were ushered onto prison grounds with heavy security. I’ve never been in a maximum security prison. Spending 6 hours inside for the execution drove home the enormity of death and hopelessness , No iPhone no money, no medicine, no rings, no watches, no freedom.
I asked an imposing bald guard who doesn’t make eye contact for permission to use the restroom. Only one at a time under his supervision. With 3 experienced reporters in a break room near the warden’s office we sat. Combined they had witnessed 23 executions. Strangely this gave me comfort. I felt somewhat at ease in Prison that maybe this would be okay.
Together we sat under guard with pencils and paper and water for 6 hrs. talking politics, government and Burt Reynolds movies. This began at 6:20 and ended when the guard came and retrieved us tersely at 11:39 saying “grab your stuff”.
We exited through a long tunnel bunker to a waiting van- we see DA Danny Porter, AG Sam Olens-It’s foggy, zero visibility–the road is lined with big men toting big automatic weapons in black armor. Through checkpoints we went silently, flanked by razor wire.
We were the last in to a small building that looks like a concession stand at a high school football game. We entered seeing three church style pews with lots of men. Then right in front of us is Kelley Gissendanner- -on the gurney, arms outstretched with needles and tubes. She makes eye contact as we enter the room. She begins to sob, I avert my eyes trying to compose myself. She is somewhat agitated or nervous.
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Source: Peach Pundit, September 30, 2015
Audio recording: Kelly Gissendaner's final words
Execution room audio, Kelly Gissendaner (Warning: Distressing Content)
ATLANTA -- 11Alive News filed a Freedom of Information Act to obtain audio of Kelly Gissendaner's final words on the night of her execution.
There were two audio-only recordings: one taken in the holding cell area and another taken in the execution chamber (above).
At 5:16 Tuesday night in the holding cell, Gissendaner said, "I just want my kids to know that love still beats out hate. And I want the Gissendaner family to know that I’m sorry and because of me a good man lost his life. And I want to tell my kids I love them so much and I am so proud of them.”
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Source: 11alive.com, September 2015
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