Death row inmate of Georgia, Kelly Gissendaner, was executed early Wednesday morning for hiring a hitman to kill her husband in 1997. Gissendaner was originally scheduled to be executed at 7 pm on Tuesday, but her lawyers filed last-minute appeals in a last ditch effort to save her life.
Gissendaner’s children had to make the difficult choice on Tuesday of either seeing their mother one last time before her execution or making a final appeal before the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles. The children ultimately decided to attempt the appeal, which failed.
Her children even presented a letter from Pope Francis that encouraged the board not to execute Gissendaner.
The letter read, “While not wishing to minimize the gravity of the crime for which Ms. Gissendaner has been convicted, and while sympathizing with the victims, I nonetheless implore you, in consideration of the reasons that have been presented to your Board, to commute the sentence to one that would better express both justice and mercy.”
The Pope had also sent a letter to Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin in which he asked her to repeal the death sentence for Richard Glossip, who is scheduled for execution on Wednesday.
Witnesses say that Gissendaner was crying as she entered the execution chamber. She released a final statement that apologized to her victim, and she reportedly sang Amazing Grace as the execution took place.
Gissendaner was convicted of murder in 1997, and she had been on death row for more than 18 years. She convinced a man she was having an affair with to kill her husband. Gissendaner is the first female to be executed in Georgia in 70 years.
The man Gissendaner hired to murder her husband is only serving a life sentence.
Meanwhile, relatives of Doug Gissendaner, Kelly’s husband and murder victim, said in a statement that they were pleased that the execution was finally taking place.
The statement read, “Kelly planned and executed Doug's murder. She targeted him and his death was intentional. Kelly chose to have her day in court and after hearing the facts of this case, a jury of her peers sentenced her to death. 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. She had no mercy, gave him no rights, no choices, nor the opportunity to live his life. His life was not hers to take."
However, the children of Kelly and Doug wanted their mother to be spared.
"My dad would not want my mom to be executed, even knowing her role in his murder, would not want us to endure another devastating loss," daughter Kayla Gissendaner said in a statement. The daughter went on to say that her mother had experienced a change in character over the previous 18 years.
A petition signed by more than 90,000 people urged Georgia Governor Nathan Deal to stop the execution.
Lawyers of Gissendaner argued that her sentence was not in appropriate proportion compared to Greg Owen, who actually killed Doug Gissendaner. Owen testified against Kelly Gissendaner as part of a plea bargain.
Gissendaner’s execution had previously been postponed twice. Only 15 females have been executed in the United States since 1976.