First execution of female in Georgia in 70 years delayed over weather

By David Beasley
Death row inmate Kelly Renee Gissendaner is seen in an undated picture from the Georgia Department of Corrections. REUTERS/Georgia Department of Corrections/Handout via Reuters

By David Beasley

ATLANTA (Reuters) - A woman set to become the first female prisoner executed by the state of Georgia in 70 years has had her death by injection delayed until Monday due to inclement weather, the governor's office said.

Kelly Renee Gissendaner, 46, was found guilty of murder for plotting the 1997 killing of her husband, Douglas Gissendaner.

According to prosecutors, she convinced her boyfriend, Gregory Owen, to murder Douglas Gissendaner, who was stabbed to death in a desolate area in suburban Atlanta after being abducted from his home.

The execution, which would be the ninth in the United States this year unless a court intervenes, had been scheduled for Wednesday evening in Jackson, Georgia. But officials delayed it until Monday due to a weather forecast calling for up to three inches of snow in the area through Thursday morning.

Earlier on Wednesday, Georgia's pardons board denied Gissendaner's request to commute her sentence to life in prison without parole.

Gissendaner is the only woman on Georgia's death row. As of October, there were 57 women on death rows in the United States, 1.88 percent of the total death row population, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

The last woman executed in the United States was Lisa Coleman in Texas in September.

In their clemency application, Gissendaner's lawyers said she accepted responsibility for her actions and has "shown a commitment to seeking redemption through spiritual growth and serving others."

According to trial testimony, Gissendaner began asking Owen "how to get rid of" her husband in November 1996. Owen suggested a divorce but Gissendaner said her husband would not leave her alone even if they were no longer married.

The pair discussed killing Gissendaner several more times before Owen agreed to the murder, which he carried out on Feb. 7, 1997, prosecutors said.

Owen later confessed and implicated Gissendaner. He is serving a life sentence for murder and is eligible to seek parole in eight years, according to Kelly Gissendaner's attorneys.

The last woman executed in Georgia was Lena Baker in the electric chair on March 5, 1945, for killing her employer, who she claimed was abusive. Baker said the killing was in self defense and Georgia's parole board pardoned her in 2005, 60 years after her death, saying it was a "grievous error" that she was denied clemency.

(Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Lisa Lambert and Bill Trott)