#AceNewsReport – Sept.29: Georgia’s parole board declined Tuesday to commute the death sentence of Kelly Renee Gissendaner — even after Pope Francis called for a halt to her execution.
Gissendaner, a mother of three who was sentenced to death for the 1997 murder of her husband at the hands of her lover, is set to receive a lethal injection at 7 p.m. ET.
“This decision will not bring healing,” said Cathy Zappa, an Episcopal priest and friend of Gissendaner.
Pope Francis, who called for a ban on the death penalty during his visit to the United States last week, asked the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles to spare her life, through a letter written by a local archbishop.
“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.
Kelly Gissendaner hugs her daughter Kayla as she celebrates her graduation from a prison theology program in 2011.
Shortly after the letter was made public, the parole board announced its decision to let its original denial of clemency, voted on in February, stand.
The victim’s family was split on whether Gissendaner should live or die: Her husband’s relatives said she did not deserve clemency, but their three kids appeared before the board to ask that their mom’s life be saved.
“Kelly planned and executed Doug’s murder. She targeted him and his death was intentional,” Douglas Gissendaner’s loved ones said in a written statement.
“In the last 18 years, our mission has been to seek justice for Doug’s murder and to keep his memory alive. We have faith in our legal system and do believe that Kelly has been afforded every right that our legal system affords.
“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.”
Gissendaner’s application for clemency focuses on the fact that she received a harsher sentence than Greg Owen, the boyfriend who actually carried out the killing and is serving life without parole.
The application for clemency also noted that Gissendaner has been a model prisoner who counsels other inmates and completed a theology program while behind bars. Hundreds of clergy have supported her clemency bid.
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