UPDATE: 12:33 a.m. EDT -- Georgia death row inmate Kelly Gissendaner was executed early Wednesday, just after midnight, making her the first woman to be put to death in the state in 70 years, according to media reports.
UPDATE: 11:45 p.m. EDT -- The U.S. Supreme Court has denied a third appeal for the stay of execution for Kelly Gissendaner, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.
The Supreme Court of Georgia also denied a stay of execution for Gissendaner, and the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles declined to grant her clemency.
Female inmate Kelly Gissendaner was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection Tuesday evening after the U.S. Supreme Court and Georgia state parole board denied her request for clemency, the Washington Post reported. Moments earlier, the execution was halted because of last-minute appeals in both courts. She would be the first woman to be put to death in the state in 70 years as well as the first “non-trigger person” to be killed since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, the New York Times reported Tuesday.
Gissendaner, now 47, was sentenced to death Nov. 20, 1998, after she was found guilty of orchestrating the death of her husband, Douglas Gissendaner, in 1997. She coaxed her lover, Greg Owen, into stabbing her husband to death, Owen claimed. Owen pleaded guilty to murder in exchange for life in prison with the chance of parole. At the time of her trial, Gissendaner pleaded not guilty but later said she felt remorse for her husband’s murder.
The family of Gissendaner’s slain husband released the following statement Tuesday after she was denied clemency. “As the murderer, [Kelly'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,” part of the statement said.
Gissendaner, who reportedly became a “powerful voice for good” in prison, garnered the support of more than 90,000 people who did not want her to die. “While incarcerated, she has been a pastoral presence to many, teaching, preaching and living a life of purpose,” a petition read, according to local Kansas City news station WDAF-TV. She graduated from a prison theology program in 2011.
Even Pope Francis, who made his historic visit to the United States last week, asked for Gissendaner’s life to be spared. A letter, written by his diplomatic representative in the U.S., Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, said the pontiff beseeched the board "to commute the sentence to one that would better express both justice and mercy," though he did not want to minimize the gravity of Gissendaner’s crime.
This is the third time an execution has been delayed for Gissendaner. The first one, originally scheduled for February, was canceled due to inclement weather. The second, originally scheduled for March, was canceled after the drug used for the lethal injection appeared “cloudy.”
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