The PJ Tatler

Time Is Running Out for Georgia's Only Female Death Row Inmate

It sounds like the stuff of movies, but a real-life crime of passion may result in the first execution of a woman in Georgia since 1945. The state of Georgia has set a date of later this month for the execution of Kelly Renee Gissendaner, but the Board of Pardons and Paroles will hold a clemency hearing the day before Gissendaner is set to be put to death for murdering her husband in 1998.

The board said in a statement Tuesday that the clemency hearing for Kelly Renee Gissendaner will be held Feb. 24. Gissendaner is set to die Feb. 25 at the state prison in Jackson.

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If the execution happens, Gissendaner will be the first woman executed in Georgia since 1945.

The Parole Board is the only entity in Georgia with the authority to reduce a death sentence to life without parole.

After Gissendaner’s conviction and appeals, the Georgia State Supreme Court upheld her death sentence in 2000, with her first execution date set for January 2001.

Gissendaner and her lover, Gregory Owen, plotted to kill her husband, Doug Gissendaner, in 1997.

Prosecutors said Gissendaner, a mother of three from Auburn, wanted her husband dead so she could profit from two $10,000 life insurance policies and the couple’s $84,000 house.

She dropped off Owen at her Auburn house before going out with friends on Feb. 7, 1997. Owen surprised 30-year-old Doug Gissendaner and forced him at knifepoint to drive to a remote area in eastern Gwinnett near the Walton County line.

Owen forced the victim to walk 100 yards into the woods and get down on his knees. He beat him in the head with a nightstick, stabbed him in the neck and back several times and left. The wife later helped her boyfriend set the car on fire to destroy evidence.

The last woman to be executed in Georgia, Lena Baker, died on March 5, 1945. She claimed self defense, and the state of Georgia granted her a posthumous pardon in 2005.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Charles Knowles