Georgia Executes Woman for the First Time in 70 Years

KellyKelly Renee Gissendaner, a Georgia woman who was convicted of conspiring to kill her husband, was executed by lethal injection last September 30. She is the first woman to be executed in Georgia in over 70 years.

Execution Despite Appeals

The mother of three, who studied theology and counseled fellow inmates behind bars, apologized to her husband’s family as she was matchcom customer phone number led to be executed. Reportedly, witnesses said that she sang “Amazing Grace” just before she took her final breaths.

Speaking to her lawyer Susan Casey moments before, she said, “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.”

She was convicted back in February 1997 for forcing her lover to kill her husband Douglas Gissendaner. She was executed despite multiple requests from her lawyers for stays and clemency, as well as a request from Pope Francis himself.

Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the pontiff’s U.S. ambassador, had sent a letter to the parole board asking for a commutation of Gissendaner’s sentence, citing the people’s plea for an end to the death penalty in his speech before a joint session of Congress just last week. Pope Francis stated that the sentence should have been changed to “one that would better express both justice and mercy.”

Kelly Gissendaner

Image Courtesy of Ann Borden / Emory University

Two of Gissendaner’s three children also formally appealed to officials to allow their mother to live, with the third child wanting to testify on her behalf. In a statement, former Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Norman Fletcher has said that he regrets denying her an appeal back in 2000, and argued that she didn’t deserve to die for her role in the killing.

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The Other Side of the Story

Despite heartfelt pleas and a request for mercy from the Pope himself, her late husband’s relatives believed that her execution was justified.

Douglas’ family said, “As the murderer, she’s been given more rights and opportunity over the last eighteen years than she ever afforded Doug who, again, is the victim here.” They added, “She had no mercy, gave him no rights, no choices, nor the opportunity to live his life.”

Kelly Gissendaner had lived through previous execution dates earlier this year, including an attempt back in February that was averted due to the winter and concerns about ‘cloudy’ lethal injection drugs back in March. Gregory Owen, her lover and the man found guilty of stabbing Douglas Gissendaner to death, will become eligible for parole in 2022.