Using the hashtag #kellyonmymind, the news broke via Twitter that the Georgia Pardons and Parole Board has upheld its decision to deny clemency to Kelly Gissendaner, a woman convicted of arranging her husband’s murder in 1997, who has since undergone a radical spiritual awakening and process of repentance.
Despite last-minute appeals from her children and a letter from the Pope, the parole board declined to stay this evening’s execution, set for 7 pm. The Guardian reported on the Pope’s midday message to the Board:
The letter was sent through a representative, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano and was accompanied by one from Wilton D Gregory, the archbishop of Atlanta. “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 expressed to your board, to commute the sentence to one that would better express both justice and mercy,” Vigano wrote on behalf of the pope.
According to various news outlets, Kelly Gissendaner will be the first woman executed by the state of Georgia in 70 years. Sixty years after the last woman died at its behest, the state issued a posthumous pardon, finding that it had been a “grievous error” to deny her clemency. In this case, former state supreme court chief justice Norman Fletcher has already expressed regrets, according to the Guardian story,
Fletcher said he has now decided he was wrong in voting to deny Gissendaner’s appeal in 2000 when he sat on the state supreme court, the statement says. He also notes that Georgia has not executed a person who didn’t actually carry out a killing since the US supreme court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.
Bishop Robert Wright, of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, was among those petitioning and praying for clemency for Gissendaner. ABC News reports that
The board released a statement saying it was standing by its February decision denying clemency and did not give any reason.