Kelly Gissendaner sang "Amazing Grace" during her execution in Georgia late Tuesday night, singing until the last moment when the lethal injection was given, witnesses said. Gissendaner, who was convicted in 1997 of persuading her lover to kill her ex-husband, became the first woman to be executed in Georgia since 1945.
"She was crying and then she was sobbing and then broke into song as well as into a number of apologies," said Jeff Hullinger, a reporter for the NBC station WXIA who witnessed the execution. "When she was not singing, she was praying."
Gissendaner, her lawyers and family made many pleas for mercy to commute her punishment to a life sentence instead of execution. Gregory Owen, Gissendaner's lover whom she incited to stab her ex-husband, Douglas Gissendaner, got life in prison as part of a plea bargain. Gissendaner maintained that she should have received the same sentence.
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The Roman Catholic Church made a plea on her behalf after Pope Francis said last week while addressing the U.S. Congress that capital punishment should be banned. One archbishop wrote a letter to the parole board asking for a life sentence. “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 expressed to your board, to commute the sentence to one that would better express both justice and mercy,” Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano wrote.
Gissendaner requested a last meal of chips and cheese dip, fajita nachos and a diet frosted lemonade, which was served to her at 4 p.m. EDT Tuesday.