Death Penalty

Woman is executed in Georgia despite Pope's support for commuted sentence

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A Georgia inmate who was executed early Wednesday was the fifth woman to be executed in the United States in the last decade.

Kelly Renee Gissendaner was executed despite Pope Francis’ support for clemency, report the New York Times, the Associated Press and the Washington Post. The Vatican’s ambassador wrote a letter to the parole board on behalf of the Pope seeking a commuted sentence “that would better express both justice and mercy.”

Gissendaner’s lawyers had sought commutation based on her religious development in prison and the help she offered to other inmates. In the execution chamber, Gissendaner apologized to the family of her slain husband, sobbed and sang “Amazing Grace,” according to the AP account.

The U.S. Supreme Court denied three stay requests Tuesday evening; Justice Sonia Sotomayor would have granted (PDF) the first request.

Gissendaner had rejected a plea deal calling for life imprisonment for orchestrating the 1997 murder of her husband. Gissendaner’s boyfriend, who carried out the fatal stabbing, got life in prison in a plea deal.

Gissendaner’s lawyers had argued she faced “hours of unconstitutional torment and uncertainty” as she waited for an execution on March 2 that was canceled amid concerns the lethal injection drug looked cloudy.

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