Tennessee woman released after 25 years on death row

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 07, 2011 12:33 PM
Tennessee woman released after 25 years on death row

By Tim Ghianni

NASHVILLE, Tenn (Reuters) - A Tennessee woman who sat on death row for a quarter-century for the killing of her husband was released from custody on Friday.

Gaile Owens, 58, was greeted by a small group of friends and family when she was released from the Tennessee Prison for Women.

"Her release plan was approved and she will be reporting regularly to a parole officer here in Nashville," said Melissa McDonald, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole, which last week approved the release.

Owens had been scheduled to die by lethal injection September 28, 2010, but that sentence was commuted by former Gov. Phil Bredesen, which made parole a possibility.

A year to the day after she was scheduled to be the first woman executed in Tennessee in more than a century, the board announced that she would be given her freedom.

Owens had been sentenced to die after being found guilty in 1986 of arranging to have her husband killed. During her parole hearing, Owens testified about sexual assaults and physical abuse she suffered from her husband that she said led her in 1984 to contract a man to kill him. Ron Owens died from 21 blows with a tire iron in the couples' suburban Memphis home.

The man who killed her husband, Sidney Porterfield, now 68, also was sentenced to death and has been on death row since, according to Dorinda Carter, spokeswoman for the state Department of Correction. Owens was convicted in 1986 of being an accessory to first-degree murder.

(Writing and reporting by Tim Ghianni; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Greg McCune)