Kelly Renee Gissendaner will be put to death despite Pope Francis’ plea to spare her life, and the issue has sparked controversy. The Georgia board of pardons and paroles announced that they have denied clemency for the woman who was sentenced to death for the murder of her husband in 1997. According to a report from CBS News, the board decided Gissendaner’s execution will go on as planned after holding a meeting to gather additional information from her supporters. The report states that the board did not give a reason for its denial after Tuesday’s meeting, saying only that it had carefully considered her request for reconsideration.
Gissendaner should have been executed in February, but the authorities suspended the execution “as a precaution” because the pentobarbital used in the process seemed cloudy.
Gissendaner’s case gained national attention because she is the only woman on death row in Georgia and will be the first to be executed in the state since 1945. Only 15 female inmates have been put to death in the United States since 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, Fox 6 reports. Kelly Renee Gissendaner is scheduled to die by lethal injection Tuesday, September 29, at 7 p.m. ET at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson.
Unless Gissendaner’s appeals or calls for clemency succeed, Gissendaner will be the first woman to be put to death in Georgia in 70 years, despite a plea for clemency from Pope Francis. Pope Francis on Sunday ended his tour of the United States, and pleaded to spare the life of the woman accused of murdering her husband.
The Pope’s plea was sent through a letter by his representative, Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano. The following text is a passage from the letter.
“This conviction [of our responsibility to defend human life at every state] has led me, from the beginning of my ministry, to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty. I am convinced that this way is the best, since, every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes.”
“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.”
But the Georgia board of pardons assessed the case and rejected Pope Francis’ plea.
Gissendaner persuaded her lover to kill her husband, Doug Gissendaner, in 1997. Although she did not carry out the crime with her own hands, the authorities found her guilty of murder and she was sentenced to death.
Dozens of people gathered last night at the State Capitol in a vigil to plead on behalf of Gissendaner, a request that has been seconded by the children of the woman.
According to NBC News, Gissendaner’s children recently posted a video online in an effort to save their mother’s life. Her daughter, Kayla, said she was estranged from her for many years but has since forgiven her.
“During the years since my dad’s murder, I have struggled with the immense pain of losing him and the fact that my mother was involved in his murder,” she said. “My dad would not want my mom to be executed. He would not want us to endure another devastating loss.”
[Images via Carl Court/Getty Images News]