Kelly Gissendaner is to be executed today for the 1997 murder of her husband. Protestors gather at the capitol and AJC reporter Rhonda Cooks talks about covering her 25th execution for the newspaper.

Execution still on as Gissendaner loses another appeal

One of Kelly Gissendaner’s last hopes for living, an appeal for a 90-day stay of execution from Georgia’s Board of Pardons and Parole, was turned down near 6 p.m.

Earlier today, a federal appeals court rejected her plea to stop her death set for tonight. She hoped the court would stay her execution until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on a issue concerning execution drugs used in lethal injections.

For her last try at the state board, Gissendaner’s lawyers want the board members to consider testaments from a high-ranking member of the Department of Corrections administration and more pleas from the religious community. Many of them met Gissendaner when she was in the prison theological studies program and say she is rehabilitated and leading a meaningful life in prison, helping other inmates and even workers at the prison.

Gissendaner’s lawyers wrote in the application for the emergency 90-day stay that the five-member board needs to hear more from Department of Corrections employees whose perspective “would have left no doubt that a grant of clemency is supported in this case.”

One of them is a former warden who is now over operations for the entire state prison system.

Gissendaner, 46, is scheduled to die by lethal injection at 7 p.m for the 1997 murder of her husband. She was moved several days ago to the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison near Jackson, a men’s facility that houses the state’s death chamber.

If she dies, Gissendaner will be the first woman Georgia has executed since 1945 and the 16th woman put to death nationwide since executions resumed in 1976.

Gissendaner was condemned for planning her husband’s murder and persuading her lover, Gregory Owen, to carry it out. Owen, who pleaded guilty and helped prosecute Gissendaner, is serving a life sentence and is eligible for parole once he has been in prison 25 years.

Kelly and Douglas Gissendaner had been married to each other twice, and she told Owen her husband had to die so could be rid of him. Owen agreed and kidnapped Douglas Gissendaner on Feb. 7, 1997. Owen forced him to drive to a remote area of Gwinnett County, knocked Douglas Gissendaner unconscious and stabbed him repeatedly in the neck.

Gissendaner was to have been executed last Wednesday, but the Department of Corrections postponed it because of projected winter weather conditions and associated scheduling issues.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.