Kelly Renee Gissendaner is the only woman on Georgia’s death row. She was convicted of the 1997 stabbing death of her husband Douglas Gissendaner. She was accused of orchestrating the murder, for which her lover Gregory Owen was sentenced to life in prison. He testified against Gissendaner and is eligible for parole in 2022.
The 47 year old Gissendaner is scheduled to be put to death at 7pm tomorrow. She would be the first woman to be executed by Georgia in 70 years. An earlier postponement of her execution in March occurred after concerns surfaced about the lethal injection drugs that were to be used. Reports indicate that a federal judge today declined to halt the execution. Lawyers for Gissendaner had contended that the more than a dozen hours spent by Gissendaner in March, as it was determined whether or not she’d be put to death, was cruel and unusual punishment.
Among those also calling for Gissendaner’s life to be spared are Rev. Kim Jackson, Episcopal Chaplain with the Atlanta University Center, Min. Cassandra Henderson with the Youth and Children’s Program at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, and Letitia Campbell with the Candler School of Theology.
Rev. Jackson says that Gissendaner’s life should be spared because “human life is worth saving.” According to Jackson, “Kelly has had an experience of transformation and redemption.” Minister Henderson has served as a chaplain at Lee Arrendale State Prison, where Gissendaner was kept as an inmate. According to Henderson, “I sat with Kelly, I prayed with Kelly, and I got to see what transformation looks like.”
Letitia Campbell is with the Candler School of Theology. She knows Gissendaner through the program that Candler sponsors through the women’s prison at Arrendale. “Many of my students, and the women affiliated with the theology program at Arrendale were deeply moved by Kelly”, says Campbell. “In many cases”, acccording to Campbell, “these women credit Kelly with saving their lives.”
Jackson, Henderson, and Campbell are advocating for Gissendaner to receive a life sentence with no opportunity for parole. Even that sentence, according to Rev. Jackson, “is still not equal to what the person who actually committed the murder received.”