Clemency Urged on Eve of Execution of Georgia Woman Kelly Gissendaner

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Hundreds of clergy urged courts Sunday to spare the life of Kelly Renee Gissendaner, the only woman on Georgia's death row, whose plea for clemency has been rejected even though she earned a theology degree and transformed her life while in prison.

Gissendaner, 47, is scheduled to die Monday night for her involvement in the 1997 stabbing death of her husband, Douglas Gissendaner.

Gissendaner had been scheduled to be executed last Wednesday, but the execution was postponed because of bad weather. A vigil was planned for Sunday night in Atlanta. Gissendaner's lawyers have argued that it's unfair to execute her when it was her lover who actually stabbed her husband — and he got only life in prison.

Other advocates — including the almost 400 clergy who signed Sunday's open letter to state and federal judges and elected officials — point to her acceptance of full responsibility and her graduation from the program for incarcerated women at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University, in which she became a teacher.

"Her journey is vividly demonstrated in her support of other inmates and her witness to young people in prison-prevention programs," they wrote. "On more than one occasion, Kelly has prevented another inmate from taking their own life."

"I feel for the family of her husband, but this will not ease their pain," the Rev. Cathy Zappa, director of the prison theology program, told NBC station WXIA of Atlanta. "She cannot undo what she's done, but she's living her life in a way that shows she takes what she's done very seriously, She is trying to turn her life to good."



— M. Alex Johnson