Pope: Spare Kelly Gissendaner’s life

Pope Francis has asked the state Board of Pardons and Paroles not to execute Kelly Gissendaner, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned.

The pope, back in Rome after a six-day visit to the United States, sent the letter today through a representative, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano.

“While not wishing to minimize the gravity of the crime for which Ms. Gissendander has been convicted, and while sympathizing with the victims, I nonetheless implore you, in consideration of the reasons that have been expressed to your board, to commute the sentence to one that would better express both justice and mercy,” Vigano wrote.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta has scheduled a news conference for 2 p.m. today to discuss the letter.

During his visit to the United States, the pope called for the abolition of the death penalty.

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Gissendaner is scheduled to be executed tonight for engineering the killing of her husband in 1997.

The letter was provided to the AJC by Gissendaner’s attorneys. They made a second appearance before the board seeking clemency on Tuesday morning. The board has yet to rule.

All three of Kelly Gissendaner’s children were in the meeting with the board but only the oldest of her children, Brandon Brookshire, spoke. Earlier this year, only his siblings, Kayla Gissendaner and Dakota Brookshire, appeared before the board.

They were sequestered with the board about 45 minutes and left by a back way to avoid the media, local as well as national.

Board spokesman Steve Hayes said the board would hear from others but he would not disclose who because the law makes that information a state secret.

But on Monday, Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter said Douglas Gissendaner’s family planned to speak to the board via phone.

Only three of the five members met in person with Gissendaner’s three adult children. The other two listened in via phone.

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