The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles denied clemency for Kelly Gissendaner on February 25. She is scheduled to die tomorrow. She is the only woman on death row in Georgia. She is convicted of orchestrating the murder of her husband, but she did not kill her husband. The co-defendant in the case, the man who did kill her husband took a plea deal and is serving life in prison- with parole eligibility in eight years, according to the clemency application.
Following the advice of her trial attorney, Ms. Gissendaner rejected a plea offer and took her case to trial. The attorney apparently advised her that it would be unlikely that she would be sentenced to death for the crime because she is a woman and because she did not kill her husband. Twenty-one people testified on her behalf at a clemency hearing, including her two daughters who, after already losing a father, will be further and irreparably harmed, when Georgia kills their mother as well. The Death Penalty Information Center reports:
Gissendaner was convicted of orchestrating the murder of her husband, but did not carry out the killing herself. At Gissendaner’s clemency hearing, 21 people testified in favor of a reduction in sentence, including two of Gissendaner’s children, several prison volunteers, and members of the clergy. Gissendaner’s daughter, Kayla, said, “My father’s death was extremely painful for many people, but I’ve recently concluded that in many ways I was the person who was most impacted by his murder. The impact of losing my mother would be devastating. I can’t fathom losing another parent.” The man who committed the murder pleaded guilty in exchange for a life sentence. Gissendaner’s attorney advised her not to take the same deal, saying that he thought a jury would not sentence her to death, “because she was a woman and because she did not actually kill Doug.” Unless an appeals court halts the execution, Gissendaner will be the first woman executed in Georgia in 70 years.
If it isn’t egregious enough that in Georgia, the person who did the killing is actually less culpable and more parole-eligible even, than the person who did not participate in the killing, when clemency was denied for Kelly Gissendaner, her execution was postponed because of the weather. In a commentary titled “Inclement Weather Postpones Execution in Georgia, as if It Were a Baseball Game,” Truth-out aptly notes:
It shouldn’t be a winter storm that delays an execution; it should be basic standards of respect for the value of life. And ultimately, if we value the lives of all people, we must permanently end capital punishment in the United States.
Creative Commons photo courtesy of Ken Piorkowski on flickr