The only woman on Georgia’s death row is set to die tonight after the state parole board refused her last minute plea for clemency – despite Pope Francis’ calls to halt her execution.
Kelly Renee Gissendaner will receive a lethal injection at 7pm tonight for plotting the murder of her husband, following the appeal hearing with Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles this morning.
The decision comes after a local archbishop made an appeal to the board on the pontiff’s behalf, which referenced the pope’s historic speech to Congress condemning the death penalty as ‘every life is sacred.’
‘While not wishing to minimize the gravity of the crime for which Ms. Gissendander 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 in a letter to board, NBC News reported.
Gissendaner’s children had also asked the state of Georgia to have mercy on their mother – despite her killing their father – saying they could not bear to lose another parent.
In this morning’s hearing, Gissendander’s attorneys called on the board to commute her sentence, saying it was disproportionate to the crime as she was not the ‘trigger-person’ in her husband’s death.
They also submitted accounts from fellow prisoners testifying about Gissendaner’s positive influence in their lives and in the prison system.
But both their arguments, the the pontiff’s appeal, were ignored and at 2.30pm today, the board announced their decision to execute the convicted murderer tonight.
Gissendaner now looks set to become the first woman executed in the state of Gerogia for 70 years
It’s a move which will surely be seen as a step backwards for Pope Francis who used his address to Congress to advocate for the global abolition of the death penalty.
‘Society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes,’ he said during the speech on his six-day U.S. tour last week.
‘Recently my brother bishops here in the United States renewed their call for the abolition of the death penalty. Not only do I support them, but I also offer encouragement to all those who are convinced that a just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.’
The mother was sentenced to death in 1997 for convincing her lover Gregory Owen to kill her husband Douglas Gissendaner.
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SOURCE: Daily Mail, Hannah Parry