The browser or device you are using is out of date. It has known security flaws and a limited feature set. You will not see all the features of some websites. Please update your browser. A list of the most popular browsers can be found below.
In a last ditch effort to keep their client alive, lawyers for the only woman on Georgia's death row have filed a flurry of appeals with high courts of both the United States and the state of Georgia.
Kelly Renee Gissendaner, who was scheduled to die Tuesday by injection of pentobarbital Tuesday evening at the state prison in Jackson, but the appeals process has pushed Gissender's execution past its 7 p.m. start date.
Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, Francis' diplomatic representative to the United States, said in a letter that he was making an "urgent appeal" on the pontiff's behalf to commute Gissendaner's sentence to one that would "better express both justice and mercy."
However, the parole board decided Tuesday afternoon that the execution would proceed. Gissendaner, 47, was convicted of the 1997 murder of her husband, Douglas Gissendaner. She conspired with her lover, Gregory Owen, who stabbed Douglas Gissendaner to death.
On Tuesday evening, the United States Supreme court denied Gissendaner, 47, a third stay of execution. The Supreme Court of Georgia also denied her a stay of execution Tuesday and the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles declined to grant her clemency after it met on earlier on Tuesday to consider new testimony from supporters. The board didn't give a reason for the denial, but said it had carefully considered her request for reconsideration.
"The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development," he said. "This conviction has led me, from the beginning of my ministry, to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty."
Two of Kelly Renee Gissendaner's three children asked the board earlier this year to spare their mother's life. Her eldest, Brandon Brookshire, who did not previously address the board, now wants to make a plea for her life, said Susan Casey, an attorney for Gissendaner.
The parole board, which is the only entity in Georgia authorized to commute a death sentence, declined to spare Gissendaner's life after a clemency hearing in February.
In that request for reconsideration, Gissendaner's lawyers cited a statement from former Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Norman Fletcher, who argued that her death sentence is not proportionate to her role in the crime. Owen is serving a life sentence in prison and will be eligible for parole in 2022.
Fletcher said he has decided he was wrong in voting to deny Gissendaner's appeal in 2000 when he sat on the state Supreme Court, the statement said. He noted that Georgia hasn't executed a person who didn't actually carry out a killing since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.
Her lawyers argue that she was a seriously damaged woman who has undergone a spiritual transformation while in prison and has been a model prisoner who has shown remorse and provided hope to other inmates in their personal struggles.
The new request for reconsideration included testimony from several women who were locked up as teens and said Gissendaner counseled them through times when they felt scared, lost or on the verge of giving up hope.
But Douglas Gissendaner's family said in a statement released Monday that he was the victim and that Kelly Gissendaner received an appropriate sentence.
"As the murderer, she's been given more rights and opportunity over the last 18 years than she ever afforded to Doug who, again, is the victim here," the statement says. "She had no mercy, gave him no rights, no choices, nor the opportunity to live his life."
Georgia Archbishop Wilton Gregory held a news conference Tuesday before the decision was announced, appealing to halt the execution. When asked what the Vatican's reaction would be if the appeal was denied, he said, “Sorrow that another individual’s life has been taken. Sorrow that another family has suffered the loss of a loved one. Sorrow that our nation continues to feel that it must impose this type of penalty.” He added that there was still “hope that other jurisdictions will remove the death penalty.”