Woman Who Plotted to Kill Husband Will be First Woman Executed in Georgia in Over 70 Years; the Last Woman Executed Was a Black Woman, Lena Baker, Who Was Pardoned

Kelly Renee Gissendaner was 28 when she murdered her husband in Gwinnett County, Georgia, on February 7, 1997. She was sentenced on November 20, 1998.
Kelly Renee Gissendaner was 28 when she murdered her husband in Gwinnett County, Georgia, on February 7, 1997. She was sentenced on November 20, 1998.

A woman sent to Georgia’s death row for the murder of her husband is due to die by lethal injection on Wednesday, in the state’s first execution of a female prisoner in 70 years.

Kelly Renee Gissendaner, 46, was found guilty of murder for plotting the 1997 killing of her husband, Douglas Gissendaner, an Army veteran who served in Desert Storm.

According to prosecutors, she convinced her boyfriend, Gregory Owen, to murder Douglas Gissendaner, who was stabbed to death in a desolate area in suburban Atlanta after being abducted from his home.

The execution, which would be the ninth carried out in the United States this year unless a court intervenes, is set for 7 p.m. ET at a prison in Jackson, Georgia.

Georgia’s pardons board on Wednesday denied Gissendaner’s request to commute her sentence to life in prison without parole.

Gissendaner is the only woman on Georgia’s death row. The last woman executed in the state was Lena Baker, who was put to death by electric chair on March 5, 1945, for killing her employer, who she claimed was abusive. Baker went to her death calmly but “protesting that the killing was in self defense,” the Atlanta Daily World newspaper reported at the time.

Georgia’s parole board pardoned Baker in 2005, 60 years after her death, saying it was a “grievous error” that she was denied clemency.

Women comprise a small fraction of the country’s death row population. As of October, there were 57 women on death row nationally, 1.88 percent of the total death row population, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

The last woman executed in the United States was Lisa Coleman in Texas in September.

In their clemency application, Gissendaner’s lawyers said she accepted responsibility for her actions and has “shown a commitment to seeking redemption through spiritual growth and serving others.”

According to trial testimony, Gissendaner began asking Owen “how to get rid of” her husband in November 1996. Owen suggested a divorce, but Gissendaner said her husband would not leave her alone even if they were no longer married.

The pair discussed killing Douglas Gissendaner several more times before Owen agreed to the murder, which he carried out on Feb. 7, 1997, prosecutors said.

Owen later confessed and implicated Gissendaner. He is serving a life sentence for murder and is eligible to seek parole in eight years, according to Kelly Gissendaner’s attorneys.

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Lisa Lambert and Bill Trott)

SOURCE: David Beasley

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