Georgia plans to execute woman next week, first since 1945

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 21, 2015 3:07 PM

By David Beasley

ATLANTA (Reuters) - Georgia plans to carry out its first execution of a woman in 70 years next week following repeated delays, the Georgia Department of Corrections said on Monday.

Kelly Renee Gissendaner, 47, is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on Sept. 29 at 7 pm. She was sentenced to death for her role in plotting the 1997 murder of her husband.

Her scheduled execution in February was called off due to inclement weather. A March 2 execution was postponed when prison officials noticed the lethal injection drug appeared "cloudy."

Tests later indicated the appearance was caused by storing the drug at too low a temperature, prison officials said.

Gissendaner's attorneys subsequently filed suit in federal district court calling Georgia's execution process "cloaked in secrecy, fraught with errors, potentially painful," and a violation of the U.S. Constitution's prohibition against "cruel and unusual" punishment.

The lawyers asked a judge to allow them to conduct their own investigation of the cloudy execution drug.

Last month, the judge ruled against Gissendaner, one of 54 women on death row in the United States. Her attorneys have asked him to reconsider the ruling.

"Ms. Gissendaner faces imminent execution by a lethal injection of drugs that defendants will have mixed, stored and handled in the same manner as the 'cloudy' drugs they obtained for her botched execution on March 2, 2015," her attorneys stated in their motion for reconsideration filed Sept. 8.

According to prosecutors, Gissendaner recruited her then boyfriend to murder her husband, Douglas Gissendaner, who was stabbed to death in a desolate area in suburban Atlanta after being abducted from his home.

Georgia last executed a female on March 5, 1945 when Lena Baker was killed in the electric chair for murdering her employer, whom she claimed had abused her. Baker said she acted in self-defense and Georgia's parole board pardoned her in 2005, saying it was a "grievous error" that she was denied clemency.

So far this year, there have been 20 executions in the United States, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. The last woman executed was Lisa Coleman in Texas in September 2014, the center said.

(Editing by Letitia Stein and Richard Chang)