A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit from Georgia’s only female death row inmate trying to block her execution for the 1997 murder of her husband in Gwinnett County.
Kelly Gissendaner’s attorneys had argued the state “botched” her execution in March when it was halted at the last minute due to the lethal injection drugs planned for her death becoming “cloudy,” and feared unsafe. The lawyers, among other things, argued that the tension of the hours-long delay before Georgia cancelled the execution subjected the woman to cruel and unusual punishment.
The judge disagreed.
“The Plaintiff does not allege that the state officials were intending to inflict pain upon her,” U.S. District Court Judge Thomas W. Thrash, Jr. wrote in the order, filed in court Tuesday. “The Plaintiff appears to acknowledge that the incident was inadvertent; caused by unforeseen events.”
No new execution date has been set for Gissendaner, who was convicted in 1998 of having her lover kill her husband, Douglas. If executed, she would be the first woman put to death by Georgia in 70 years.
Gwinnett District Attorney Danny Porter said the judge’s ruling is step toward a new death warrant, but an appeal from Gissendaner’s team is expected.
The state has said the cloudiness in the pentobarbital solution intended to kill Gissendaner was most likely because “the drugs were shipped and stored at a temperature, which was too low.” Whatever the cause, the situation reignited debate in Georgia and around the country about the safeguards taken — or allegedly not taken — by states to ensure the drugs they purchase aren’t defective.
Thrash shot down the former Auburn resident’s attorneys’ argument that the mistake could lead to the state attempting to execute her with faulty drugs in the future. The lawyers had accused the officials of conducting a “self-investigation with opaque results” and withholding evidence on what happened with the drugs.
“First, it is not enough to show that the State may obtain defective lethal injection drugs,” he wrote. “If anything, the March 2 incident shows that the State is unlikely to use defective drugs on the Plaintiff.”
Generally, the judge’s order doesn’t appear likely to lead to a standing down in the Gissendaner camp.
She’s received a massive outpouring of support from clergy, anti-death-penalty activists and other supporters. Her reported regret for her crimes and attempts to get right with God have been the source of much of the sympathy she’s won.
She got her own Twitter hashtag, #KellyOnMyMind.
The family of the victim, however, said in a March statement, “We, along with our friends and supporters and our faith, will continue fighting for Doug until he gets the justice he deserves no matter how long it takes.”