Things to know about the upcoming execution in Georgia

AP News
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Posted: Sep 27, 2015 9:40 AM

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia is preparing to execute the lone woman on the state's death row.

Kelly Renee Gissendaner, 47, was convicted and sentenced to death in the February 1997 slaying of her husband, Douglas Gissendaner. Prosecutors say she conspired with her lover, Gregory Owen, who ambushed her husband, forced him to drive to a remote area and stabbed him repeatedly. Owen and Gissendaner then met up and set fire to the dead man's car.

Owen pleaded guilty and testified against Gissendaner. He's serving a life sentence and becomes eligible for parole in 2022.

Gissendaner's execution is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday at the state prison in Jackson.

Here are some things to know about this upcoming execution:

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PREVIOUS EXECUTION DATES

Gissendaner was previously scheduled for execution last Feb. 25, but that was delayed because of a threat of winter weather. Her execution was reset for March 2, but corrections officials postponed it "out of an abundance of caution" because the execution drug appeared "cloudy."

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EXECUTION DRUG

Georgia executes inmates by injecting them with pentobarbital. The Department of Corrections obtains the pentobarbital from a compounding pharmacy, the identity of which is classified as a "confidential state secret" under a 2013 law that prohibits the release of identifying information for any entity that participates in an execution.

After the problem with the drug in March, the department temporarily suspended executions until a drug analysis could be done. Corrections officials have said a pharmacological expert told them the most likely cause of the formation of solids in the compounded pentobarbital was shipping and storage at a temperature that was too cold, but they noted that storage at a low temperature does not always cause pentobarbital to precipitate.

For Tuesday's scheduled execution, the department plans to use the same compounding pharmacist who provided the pentobarbital for Gissendaner's previous execution dates, spokeswoman Gwendolyn Hogan said.

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ONLY WOMAN ON GEORGIA'S DEATH ROW

Gissendaner would be the first woman executed in Georgia in 70 years. Lena Baker, a black maid, was executed in 1945 after being convicted in a one-day trial of killing her white employer. Georgia officials issued her a pardon in 2005 after six decades of lobbying and arguments by her family that she likely killed the man because he was holding her against her will. Baker was the only woman to die in the state's electric chair.

Execution of female inmates is rare with only 15 women put to death nationwide since the Supreme Court in 1976 allowed the death penalty to resume. During that same period, about 1,400 men have been executed, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

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CHILDREN'S PLEA

Two of Gissendaner's three children have made public pleas to spare her life, saying their mother has changed and that they will be the ones who suffer if a second parent is taken from them. In a video released Sept. 19, Dakota and Kayla Gissendaner, who were 5 and 7 when their father died, talk about overcoming intense anger at their mother and the difficult journey to forgiving her.

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LEGAL CHALLENGES

Gissendaner's lawyers filed a complaint in March, saying the period of uncertainty after her execution was postponed, not knowing whether the state would try to proceed again before the execution window expired and what drugs it might use, amounted to "unconstitutional torment and uncertainty." They also alleged that allowing the state to do its own investigation into the problem with the lethal injection drug posed a significant risk of harm to Gissendaner when the state next tries to execute her.

A federal judge dismissed that case last month, and Gissendaner's lawyers have asked him to reconsider that ruling. A hearing is set for Monday on an emergency request by her lawyers to halt the execution until the court can consider that request.

Her lawyers have also filed a legal challenge with the U.S. Supreme Court.

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LAST MEAL

Gissendaner has requested a last meal of cheese dip with chips, Texas fajita nachos and a diet frosted lemonade.