Tuesday, March 3, 2015

3/3/15 - GA: Execution of Kelly Gissendaner postponed again

Execution of Kelly Gissendaner postponed again

JACKSON, GA (WXIA) -- Kelly Renee Gissendaner's execution was postponed Monday night when officials cited problems with the lone drug that would be used for the lethal injection.
The drug, pentobarbital, had a cloudy appearance, prompting officials to called a pharmacist and then out of an "abundance of caution" to postpone the execution, said Georgia Department of Corrections spokeswoman Gwendolyn Hogan. She did not give a new date.
Gissendaner was scheduled to be executed at 7 p.m. ET at the prison in Jackson. The execution was put on hold while officials waited for the U.S. Supreme Court to either grant or deny a stay requested by her lawyers. The court had still not ruled more than four hours later.
An appellate court rejected the lawyers' request for a delay on the grounds that Georgia's lethal-injection procedures aren't transparent enough to be challenged in court. Late Monday, the lawyers added additional arguments for the high court: that it should consider a stay because Gissendaner didn't kill her husband, Douglas Gissendaner, herself in February 1997. They also argued that she had been thoroughly rehabilitated.
The execution had been scheduled for Feb. 25, but was delayed until Monday because of a winter storm.
Monday night about 100 protesters gathered outside the prison in 50-degree weather as the hours ticked by.
The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, the only entity authorized to commute a death sentence, denied clemency last week and upheld that decision late Monday. The woman's lawyers had urged the board to reconsider and "bestow mercy" by commuting her sentence to life without parole. The board said it voted to abide by its earlier decision after "careful consideration" of the request.
Gissendaner's conviction and death sentence was for conspiring with her then-boyfriend to murder her husband. The boyfriend, Greg Owen, testified against Gissendaner in exchange for a life sentence. In court, Owen said Gissendaner told him to stab and beat Doug to death in a remote area of Gwinnett County, and provided him with the kerosene he used to burn the victim's car.
Gissendaner exhausted her appeals in October 2014. Last week, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles voted to deny her clemency, even after 21 people asked the board to spare her life. After reviewing a second clemency application, the board once again voted to let its original decision stand on Monday.
Also on Monday, the Supreme Court of Georgia voted 5 to 2 to deny a stay of execution. The dissenting votes were placed by Justices Robert Benham and Hunstein.
Doug and Kelly Gissendaner's three children, now young adults, were among a group of supporters who gathered Sunday at Emory University's William Cannon Chapel for a prayer vigil. Clergy members and former prisoners who interacted with Gissendaner during her time behind bars spoke at the event, saying she turned her life around, often teaches and counsels her fellow inmates, and even completed a year-long theology certificate program.
In her clemency application, Gissendaner said she has "accepted responsibility for her actions" and "expressed deep remorse for the pain she has caused" the Gissendaner family. But Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter said a death sentence is an appropriate punishment for the crime Gissendaner committed.
If executed, Gissendaner will be the 35th Georgia inmate put to death by lethal injection, according to the Georgia District Attorney's Office.
Her execution was originally scheduled for Feb. 25, but winter weather forced the Georgia Department of Corrections to reschedule.
USA Today contributed to this report.

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