Kelly Gissendaner's lawyers on Wednesday asked a federal judge to stop her execution, set for next week, so there's time for him to reconsider his decision to dismiss a lawsuit she filed accusing state officials of violating her constitutional rights.
Lawyers for the state quickly countered with a filing that said there was no new information that would prompt U.S. District Judge Thomas Thrash to rethink his Aug. 10 decision to dismiss Gissendaner's complaint.
Last Friday, a Gwinnett County judge signed a warrant scheduling Gissendaner's execution, which is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday.
The filings Wednesday are most likely the 1st of a series of court challenges expected as lawyers try to stop the execution.
The issue that Gissendaner's lawyers say Thrash needs to give another look is whether her constitutional rights were violated on March 2 when her scheduled execution was delayed, canceled, scheduled again and then stopped once more because of a potential problem with the execution drug. They argue the on-again, off-again scheduling constituted cruel and unusual punishment.
The Department of Corrections called off her execution for the final time almost 3 1/2 hours after it was to have happened. DOC said it needed time to determine what was wrong with the drug. The pentobarbital was cloudy and contained clumps. DOC later said the drug's appearance changed because it had been stored at a temperature that was too cold. Otherwise, there was nothing wrong with it.
Gissendaner also complained in her lawsuit that Georgia's secrecy law prevents her legal team from verifying that the drug will do what it is designed to do without causing unnecessary pain because lawyers have no way of knowing who had makes the powerful sedative and under what circumstances.
Thrash dismissed Gissendaner's lawsuit last month, writing that prison officials did not deliberately cause her emotional distress so it was not unconstitutional. He also repeated what other courts have said - laws designed to protect the identities of those who provide lethal injection drugs do not violate the Constitution.
A Gwinnett County jury convicted Gissendaner of murder and sentenced her to die for Douglas Gissendaner's February 1997 death, even though she didn't personally kill him. Kelly Gissendaner persuaded her then-lover, Gregory Owen, to kill her husband while she was at a bar with friends. She gave Owen the nightstick and the knife he used to murder Douglas Gissendaner.
Eventually, Owen pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole after he has served 25 years, an offer Kelly Gissendaner rejected.
Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, September 24, 2015
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