Pope Francis made a last-minute appeal to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles requesting clemency for Kelly Renee Gissendaner, a Georgia woman scheduled to be executed for the 1997 murder of her husband, Douglas Gissendaner, reports CBS News. Kelly Renee lost several appeals to spare her life, and Pope Francis stepped in at the last moment with his request.
According to The Guardian, Kelly Renee Gissendaner was convicted of conspiring with her lover to murder her husband, who was stabbed to death.
— Sky News (@SkyNews) September 30, 2015
The request made by Pope Francis was denied, and Gissendaner, who was scheduled to be executed Tuesday night, was the first woman executed in the state of Georgia in seven decades, according to CBS News.
Pope Francis sent the clemency request Tuesday, September 29 via Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, who is his diplomatic representative in the United States. The letter was published on the website of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta.
In the letter requesting the life of Gissendaner be spared, Pope Francis expressed that while he does not want to “minimize the gravity of the crime for which Ms. Gissendaner has been convicted,” Pope Francis asked the board “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.” Pope Francis also pointed out that he “sympathiz[ed] with the victims,” but felt the death penalty did not adequately give justice, reports The Guardian.
During his six-day visit to the United States, Pope Francis also called for the death penalty to be abolished during a speech to the Joint Session of Congress on Thursday, September 24.
During his address to Congress, Pope Francis said his “conviction has led me, from the beginning of my ministry, to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty.” Pope Francis asserted, similar to his letter regarding Kelly Renee, that he is “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.”
According to Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, it’s not uncommon for the Pope, through an intermediary, to ask for clemency in a death penalty case. With regards to Kelly Renee Gissendaner, Pope Francis took a more active interest, since her execution was scheduled soon after his address to Congress.
— Huffington Post (@HuffingtonPost) September 29, 2015
Wilton Daniel Gregory, Archbishop of Atlanta, told CBS News that, without a doubt, “soon after making his appeal to Congress to abolish the death penalty [Pope Francis] was certainly watching any cases that might be on the horizon,” Gregory explained that “I suspect [Kelly Renee Gissendaner] would be the first such case.”
Gregory also said that the execution of Kelly Renee Gissendaner “follows up so directly on what [Pope Francis] just recommended last Thursday, so it’s a first response to a longstanding concern that the holy see and the bishops of the United States have had,” reports The Guardian.
As part of her request to deny the execution, lawyers for Kelly cited a statement from former Georgia supreme court chief justice Norman Fletcher, who confessed he was wrong for denying Gissendaner’s appeal in 2000, claiming her crime did not match her conviction.
The killing of Kelly Gissendaner last night was utterly senseless and cruel. http://t.co/JIDpuheEpz
— Liliana Segura (@LilianaSegura) September 30, 2015
On September 29, Kelly Renee Gissendaner died by lethal injection sometime after 7 p.m. at the state prison in Jackson, Georgia, reports The Guardian. She made several appeals for clemency, but the board denied her appeals, including the request made on her behalf by Pope Francis. The board also denied appeals from her family, including her three children, who told the board they already lost one parent, and did not want to lose their mother.
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