Georgia to resume executions

Georgia is preparing to resume executions as a Gwinnett County judge signed a warrant Friday that said Kelly Gissendaner is to be put to death in less than two weeks.

The state put executions on hold in March because the lethal injection drug prepared to put Gissendaner to death then was cloudy and could cause pain or not be effective.

In mid-April, DOC said the drug appeared off because it had been stored in conditions too cold. Otherwise, the drug was fine, Corrections said.

In the interim, a federal lawsuit challening her execution was pending and last month the judge dismissed it.

According to the execution warrant signed Friday, Gissendaner is to die between noon Sept. 29 and noon Oct. 6. The Department of Corrections sets the specific time and date, usually at 7 p.m. on the first day specified in the warrant, which would be Sept. 29.

If she is put to death for the 1997 murder of her husband, Gissendaner will be the first woman the state has executed in 50 years.

As many as four other Death Row inmates have completed the usual round of appeals and could have execution dates set for them soon. Georgia executed two men this year, Andrew Brannan on Jan. 13 and Warren Hill on Jan. 27, before the moratorium on lethal injections was implemented.

Gissendaner was scheduled to die March 2. But the appointed time came and went. For more than three hours she waited in a cell adjoining the death chamber. Then in the span of 10 minutes she got news her execution wouldn’t happen then told it would and finally that it was postponed indefinitely because the problem with the pentobarbital.

Gissendaner’s lawyers filed a complaint with the U.S. District Court in Atlanta, saying her constitutional protection from cruel and unusual punishment was violated when she was prepared for her execution then was told it would not happen and then that it would and again that it would not.

Gissendaner's lawyers said she suffered "prolonged fear and uncertainty as to whether she would be subjected to a torturous death" and she was in mental agony while the state "dithered."

Her lawyers also used the lawsuit to, again, challenge the state law that keeps information about the provider of lethal injection drugs a state secret. Georgia is among many states that adopted secrecy laws because they said they could only secure lethal injection drugs if they protected providers from public pressure.

Within days of calling off Gissendaner's lethal injection, the state also cancelled the March 10 scheduled execution of Brian Keith Terrell, condemned for the 1992 murder of an elderly Walton County man who was a friend of his mother. His execution also was delayed while the Department of Corrections determined the problem with the powerful sedative made specifically for Gissendaner.

Last month, U.S. District Judge Thomas Thrash dismissed Gissendaner’s lawsuit. But then last week, her lawyers filed a motion for reconsideration. That motion is pending.

Gissendaner was sentenced to die for the 1997 murder of her husband, Douglas Gissendaner, even though she didn't actually carry out the crime. She persuaded her lover, Gregory Owen, to kill him while she was at a bar with friends. Owen was waiting at the Gissendaner house when Douglas Gissendaner came home after an evening at the home of friends from his church. Douglas was forced at knife-point to drive to a remove area of Gwinnett County where Owen knocked the man unconscious and repeatedly stabbed him in the neck. Kelly Gissendaner arrived at the scene just as her husband died.

Owen and Kelly Gissendaner set Douglas’ car on fire and then she went home to report him missing.

Owen eventually pleaded guilty to the murder and was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole after he had served 25 years. Kelly Gissendaner, however, rejected the same deal. She went to trial and and Gwinnett County jury convicted her and sentenced her to die.