On Sept. 30, Georgia executed Kelly Gissendaner, the first woman in 70 years in the state and the only female on death row, reported the Associated Press. Pope Francis, on his visit the U.S., asked that her sentence be commuted to life in prison. But Kelly Renee Gissendaner, 47, was put to death by a lethal injection of pentobarbital, despite the Pope’s plea. She died at the state prison in Jackson and passed away at 12:21 a.m. Gissendaner went to her death apologizing to family, sending love and singing “Amazing Grace.”
Kelly Gissendaner was convicted of murder in February 1997 in the death of her husband Douglas Gissendaner. She didn’t do the actual killing. The 29-year-old mother was found to have conspired with her lover, Gregory Owen, who stabbed Douglas Gissendaner to death. The actual murderer, Owen, was only sentenced to life in prison. He will be eligible for parole in 2022. Gissendaner’s is the first execution of a person who didn’t actually kill anyone, since U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.
Gissendaner sobbed and apologized to Douglas Gissendaner’s family, expressing hope that they can find peace. She thanked her lawyer Susan Casey and asked God’s blessing on everyone. Gissendaner sang “Amazing Grace” and also seemed to start another before breathing her last. The chaplain who visited her said she was at peace. Gissendaner’s three children visited her last on September 28.
Two of Gissendaner’s three children had previously requested that the Board of Pardons and Paroles in Georgia spare their mother’s life. She has been called a changed woman from the damaged person she was when she went in. Her deceased husband’s family felt the punishment was appropriate. The board didn’t say why it denied clemency. Gissendaner was originally scheduled for execution on Feb. 25, but it was delayed by weather. Gissendaner made news then when she asked for an odd, and very large, last meal. Her execution was reset to March 2 but again delayed when the drug appeared “cloudy” to officials.