Kelly Renee Gissendaner could get another last-minute reprieve from her execution set for Tuesday night as the Parole Board has decided to hear from her advocates a second time just eight hours before she is schedule to die for her husband’s murder.
The State Board of Pardons and Paroles rejected her petition for clemency in February, but late Monday it announced it would “consider supplemental information” from her lawyers Tuesday at 11 a.m.
According to one of Gissendaner’ s lawyers, her oldest child, Brandon, has asked for a chance to speak to the five member board as his younger sister and brother did when they heard her petition for clemency in February. Brandon has stayed out of the controversy even as his siblings have waged a vigorous campaign to spare Gissendaner from execution as punishment for killing their father.
Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter said board members said they also wanted to hear from Douglas Gissendaner’s parents and other family members who want no delay in the execution.
“They’re prepared to argue their position to the board,” Porter said of Douglas Gissendaner’s family. “They’re frustrated and tired but they’re determined. So I think what they are planning to do is making their cases.”
The board could stand by its previous decision to deny clemency, which would make Gissendaner the first woman Georgia has put to death since 1945. The board also could issue a one-time, 45-day stay to allow the five members more time to study the additional information relating to her death sentence for the 1997 murder of Douglas Gissendaner. Or the board could commute Gissendaner’s sentence to life in prison.
It is not unusual for the board to to reconsider clemency after an execution date has been postpioned, said former board member Bob Keller.
It is unusual for them to commute a death sentence.
Only five times since 2002 has the board has commuted the sentence of a death row inmate, most recently on July 9, 2014, for Tommy Lee Waldrip, who was initially sentenced to die for the 1991 murder of a convenience store clerk. The board does not give a reason for its decision, but one issue raised was that Waldrip’s death sentence was not proportional to two other’s convicted in the murder who were given life. Waldrip’s son was sentenced to life in prison though he actually committed the murder.
The same is true in Gissendaner’s case, according to a request for reconsideration of Gissendaner’s sentence. The request, filed with the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles, notes that Gissendaner was not the actual killer. If she were executed, the request states, she would be the first “non-trigger person” executed in Georgia since the state reinstated capital punishment in 1976.
This is the third execution date Kelly Gissendaner has had. One planned for Feb. 25 was postponed because winter weather made it to treacherous to drive Gissendaner from a north Georgia prison to Jackson where the state’s death chamber is located. Her execution set for March 2 was called off because the compounded pentobarbital was cloudy and contain clumps.
The 47-year-old woman’s execution for 7 p.m. Tuesday was set after the state determined the problem with the drug in March was caused by storing it in temperatures that were too cold.
In the Gissendaner case, she planned her husband’s murder but her lover, Gregory Owen, carried it out. Owen pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years.
Earlier Monday, Douglas Gissendaner’s family released a statement but it was before the Parole Board’s announcement.
“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 family wrote. “She had no mercy, gave him no rights, no choices, nor the opportunity to live his life.”
Also on Monday morning, Gissendaner’s attorney lost in federal court his argument that her scheduled lethal injection should be stopped because the state has not fully explained what went wrong with the lethal injection drug made for her execution that was scheduled for March 2.
In the statement Monday, Douglas Gissendaner’s parents and sister say they want people to focus on victim and not the woman who had him killed.
“We will always feel great sorrow and indescribable pain at how he was so brutally taken from us, but also take comfort in knowing that he’s in Heaven waiting for each and every one of us to rejoin him someday,” his family said.
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