ATLANTA - Should Kelly Gissendaner be put to death? The passionate opinions vary person-to-person, but over the weekend, some prominent voices have been added to the list of people calling for her death sentence to be commuted.
Last week, two of her three children put out a video asking that the state not put Gissendaner to death.
In the video, Kayla Gissendaner said, "My brothers and I lost one parent. I don't know that I can lose another one. I don't know if I can handle that because it's the most awful feeling to know that they could both be gone."
Since then, a former Georgia Corrections Deputy Director and a retired Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice have joined the family in calling for a stay of execution noting the example Gissendaner could be to her fellow inmates and how unfair her sentence was compared to that of her co-defendant who actually performed the murder.
Former Georgia Corrections Deputy Director Vanessa O’Donald, who was the warden from 2001-2004 at Metro State Prison, found Gissendaner to be “polite and respectful” during their conversations. She believes Gissendaner could serve as an example to the female inmate population.
“Although Ms. Gissendaner rarely had physical contact with other inmates when I was the Warden, she was able to provide support and inspiration with her strong and kind words to those housed on the secure unit,” said O’Donald in a statement released Saturday.
Retired Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Norman Fletcher said Gissendaner’s sentence was not proportional to the sentence given to Gregory Owen, who was convicted of stabbing Douglas Gissendaner to death. Fletcher noted that he was wrong when it came to his earlier rulings on Gissendaner.
“While Ms. Gissendaner’s sentence was wrong on the day that it was imposed, it is impossible to ignore her work as a true minister of mercy during her years on death row. I am profoundly moved by the testimony of former and current prisoners, prison guards and officials, prison volunteers, and chaplains who have borne witness to the goodwill, hope, and example that she has provided for dozens of inmates in desperate need,” said Fletcher in a statement released Monday. “She serves as a shining example of her faith, which is the product of her own remorse and devotion, and also a testament to the tremendous success of the reforms we have made in our prison system.”
The Gwinnett County District Attorney’s Office, however, stands by Gissendaner's planned execution. They released a statement on behalf of the family of Douglas Gissendaner.
“As the murderer, she’s been given more rights and opportunity over the last 18 years than she ever afforded to Doug who, again, is the victim here. She had no mercy, gave him no rights, no choices, nor the opportunity to live his life. His life was not hers to take,” the statement reads. “But we want to take this opportunity to ask you to focus on Doug, not Kelly. For those of you who did not have the pleasure of knowing Doug, he was a truly wonderful person, the kind of selfless person who always thought of others instead of himself.”
A judge Monday denied a stay of execution. Gissendaner is set for execution by injection of pentobarbital at 7 p.m. Tuesday. A hearing is schedule for 11 a.m. that morning before the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles.