Waiting game

Despite children’s pleas, sole woman on Georgia’s death row prepares for execution

Death row inmate Kelly Renee Gissendaner. REUTERS/Georgia Department of Corrections/Handout via Reuters

In 1997, Kelly Renee Gissendaner’s children were 3, 6 and 10 when she hired her lover to kill their father, Douglas. “The night my father was murdered the world was changed,” Kayla Gissendaner wrote in a statement that accompanied a video made by she and her younger brother, Dakota, which also features Kelly’s grandchildren. The pair have forgiven their mother, the only woman on Georgia’s death row, and are fighting to have her sentence commuted. If she is killed, she will be the first woman in 70 years to be executed by the state of Georgia.

“My brothers and I want my mom to live,” Kayla Gissendaner said in the video. “She’s all we have left. My brothers and I lost one parent. I don’t know if I can lose another. I don’t know if I can handle that. It’s the most awful feeling to know they both should be gone.”

Georgia is set to kill Kelly Dissendaner on Tuesday, September 29, after her scheduled death was stalled first because of a winter storm, then again on March 2, following problems with the lethal injection drug, pentobarbital. She and her children reconciled six years ago and those who know the inmate say she has changed in the 18 years since Douglas’ murder, having earned a degree in theology and time spent studying the Bible.

“My dad would not want my mom to be executed, even knowing her role in his murder,” said Kayla Gissendaner said. “He would not want us to endure another devastating loss.”

According to the NAACP Legal Defense fund, women constitute less than 2 percent of the total death row population. There were 56 women on death row as of December 31, 2014.

Read the full story at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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