Despite a plea from Pope Francis, the execution of Kelly Renee Gissendaner was carried out in Georgia on Wednesday morning for her role in killing her husband in 1997.
Gissendaner, whose lawyers filed a flurry of last-minute appeals before Wednesday, became the first woman executed in Georgia in 70 years, said CNN
Gissendaner, 47, died by lethal injection at 12:21 a.m. EDT at Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, a prison spokeswoman said, according to Reuters
A representative of Pope Francis, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, reportedly sent a letter to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole interceding in the case during the string of appeals, but it was not clear if the board ever saw the letter.
"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 presented to your board, to commute the sentence to one that would better express both justice and mercy," the letter read.
The Archbishop of Atlanta, Wilton D. Gregory, and Gov. Nathan Deal were copied in the letter, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The pope's letter was revealed by Gissendaner's attorneys as her adult children made a second round of appeals seeking clemency. All three of Gissendaner's children – Brandon Brookshire, Kayla Gissendaner and Dakota Brookshire – appeared in front of the board in support of their mother.
Board spokesman Steve Hayes declined to say who else met with board before the decision was made to move forward with the execution.
Critics of Gissendaner's death sentence have pointed out the difference in her sentence and the person who actually carried out the murder of Douglas Gissendaner, Gregory Owen, who received life in prison, said the Washington Post.
Kelly Gissendaner was convicted in 1998 for convincing Owen, her boyfriend at the time, to carry out the murder of Douglas Gissendaner.
Pope Francis's representative also sent a letter to Oklahoma officials asking them to spare the life of Richard Glossip, who is slated to be executed on Wednesday, said CNN. Like the Gissendaner case, Glossip did not personally carry out the murder, but was convicted of hiring someone to bludgeon his victim to death.
Like the Gissendaner case as well, that person received a life sentence while Glossip was sentenced to death.
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