Georgia executes only woman on death row, denying clemency bid, papal plea

Kelly Renee Gissendaner © Georgia Department of Corrections
The only woman on Georgia’s death row has run out of time, despite a plea from the pope. After two stays of execution, Kelly Renee Gissendaner has been put to death via lethal injection.

Both the US Supreme and the Georgia Supreme Court denied Gissendaner's last-minute appeals for a stay of execution. The US Supreme Court rejected three appeals from Gissendaner on Tuesday night.

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles denied Gissendaner’s request for clemency on Tuesday without giving a reason for the denial.

"In reaching its decision, the Board thoroughly reviewed all information and documents pertaining to the case, including the latest information presented by Gissendaner’s representatives," a release sent from Parole Board Chairman Terry Barnard said.

The board has sole authority to grant requests for clemency in Georgia, and it’s the second time it has refused to do so for the 46-year-old woman.

This time, though, Gissendaner had the backing of Pope Francis. The pontiff asked the parole board to spare her life in a letter written by a local archbishop, NBC News reported.

"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," Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano wrote.

Gissendaner was charged with planning the February 1997 murder of her husband Douglas, committed by her then-boyfriend, Gregory Owen. While Owen was sentenced to life imprisonment, Gissendaner received the death penalty.

Her execution was set for late February, until a winter storm gave Gissendaner a short reprieve.

“There are no excuses for what I did. I am fully responsible for my role in my husband's murder,” Gissendaner wrote in her appeal, which had been denied before her original February 25th execution date. “I had become so self-centered and bitter about my life and who I had become, that I lost all judgment.”

A week later, Georgia stayed Gissendaner’s execution once again, this time over a test of its compounded pentobarbital, which turned up a “cloudy” drug rather than clear one.

Gissendaner requested cheese dip with chips, Texas fajita nachos and a diet frosted lemonade as her final meal.