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Tuesday, May 28, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Georgia Delays Execution, Citing Drug Concerns

(CN) - Georgia postponed its first execution of a woman in more than seven decades on Monday, citing concerns over the drug that was to be used to carry out her punishment.

Kelly Renee Gissendaner was scheduled to be executed at 7 p.m. Monday night at the state prison in Jackson, Ga., when officials noticed that the drug to be administered, pentobarital, was cloudy in appearance.

Gwendolyn Hogan, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Corrections, said after consulting with a pharmacist officials decided to exercise an abundance of caution and put off the execution.

At the time of the postponement, officials and lawyers were for the condemned woman were awaiting word on whether the U.S. Supreme Court would grant a request for a stay as it had in cases involving lethal injections in Oklahoma.

This is actually the second time Gissendaner's execution has been postponed. She was originally scheduled to die on February 25, but on that night, a winter storm intervened.

Gissendaner was set to be executed for the killing of her husband, Douglas Gissendaner, in February 1997. Gregory Owen, her boyfriend at the time and co-conspirator in the murder, received a life sentence after agreeing to testify against her.

According to prosecutors, Gissendaner talked Owen into carrying out the murder, and provided him with detailed instructions on what to do. Owen is said to have ambushed Douglas Gissendaner and to have driven him to a remote area, where he stabbed him to death.

Since her conviction, Gissendaner's lawyer's have raised a number of arguments for sparing her life, most recently that Georgia's lethal-injection procedures are not transparent enough. An appellate court has already rejected a stay of the execution on those grounds.

The attorneys also argue their client should not be executed because she did not carry out the actual murder, and that she had been rehabilitated while in prison.

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles denied Gissendaner clemency last week and upheld that decision Monday. Afterwards, Gissendaner requested a last meal consisting of cornbread, a side of buttermilk, two cheeseburgers, two large orders of French fries, cherry vanilla ice cream, popcorn, salad with boiled eggs, tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, carrots, cheese and buttermilk dressing, and lemonade.

If she is ultimately executed, Gissendaner would be the 16th woman put to death in the United States since the Supreme Court allowed the death penalty to resume in 1973. Since then, Georgia has executed 57 men, including 34 by lethal injection. Gissendaner is currently the only woman on Georgia's death row.

The last woman to be executed in the state of Georgia was Lena Baker, who died in the electric chair on March 5, 1945. Baker was pardoned in 2005 after officials said she should have been granted clemency for killing an abusive employer in self-defense.

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