Family: Kelly Gissendaner's murdered husband 'is the true victim'

Kelly Gissendaner

The execution of Kelly Gissendaner — as well as that of another death row inmate scheduled to die next week — has been postponed indefinitely while the Department of Corrections investigates the drugs it planned to use in the procedure.

Gissendaner, who was convicted in 1998 of masterminding her husband’s murder, had been scheduled to be executed Monday after weather forced officials to reschedule an earlier date. Around 11 p.m. Monday, however, the Department of Corrections said the execution would be postponed due to a drug issue.

On Tuesday afternoon, DOC spokeswoman Gwendolyn Hogan issued a statement postponing Gissendaner’s death for an undetermined amount of time.

“The Georgia Department of Corrections announced today that, out of an abundance of caution, the scheduled executions of Kelly Renee Gissendaner and Brian Keith Terrell have been postponed while an analysis is conducted of the drugs planned for use in last night’s scheduled execution of inmate Gissendaner,” the emailed statement read.

Gissendaner’s original execution order called for her to be executed by noon Wednesday. Terrell, convicted in a 1992 Newton County murder, had been scheduled to die March 10.

No specific timeline was given for either execution.

“The sentencing courts will issue new execution orders when the Department is prepared to proceed,” Tuesday’s DOC statement said.

The state of Georgia uses a drug called pentobarbital to execute prisoners and, under law, it does not reveal information regarding the supplier of the drugs used in executions. Condemned Georgia inmate Warren Lee Hill unsuccessfully challenged that protocol, saying it violated inmates’ due process rights, before being executed in January.

Lethal injection drugs have been under close scrutiny since the botched April 2014 execution of an Oklahoma man.

Four hours after Gissendaner’s scheduled 7 p.m. execution Monday, officials from the Department of Corrections rounded up media members waiting to witness the execution at Jackson’s Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison and told them their had been a postponement. In a brief statement, Hogan said that the drugs to be used in Gissendaner’s execution “appeared cloudy” and that the department consulted with a pharmacist.

Previous tests had placed the drugs’ potency “within the acceptable testing limits,” Hogan said.

After reading her statement, Hogan said she would not be taking questions and walked away from a crowd of reporters asking for more specifics. Further inquiries Tuesday did not garner responses.

Messages left with Gissendaner’s legal team were not immediately answered.

Monday’s postponement came after the Georgia Supreme Court had denied a stay for Gissendaner and the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles declined to reconsider its previous denial of clemency.

Officials were still awaiting word from the United States Supreme Court.

Gissendaner’s legal team has argued that her sentence is disproportionate to that of Gregory Bruce Owen, the boyfriend with whom she planned her husband’s Feb. 7, 1997, murder. Owen killed Doug Gissendaner by abducting, beating and stabbing him in the neck in a wooded area near Dacula, but testified at trial that it was Kelly Gissendaner’s idea and that she supplied him with the murder weapons.

In exchange for his testimony, Owen was given a life sentence. He is eligible for parole in 2023.

Gissendaner’s children have also joined local religious leaders and former prisoners in the push to highlight their belief that she has been fully reformed, is a devoutly spiritual woman and serves as an important mentor for fellow inmates. At a Sunday night vigil hosted by Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, supporters pleaded for her sentence to be commuted to life in prison.

Gissendaner, they said, would be more valuable to the prison system and society as a whole if allowed to live.

“She has lived her life in a way that is doing everything she can to make up for it, knowing good and well she’ll never make up for it,” Rev. Cathy Zappa, who worked one-on-one with Gissendaner for more than four years, previously told the Daily Post. “She has no illusion that she could ever make up for it. But killing her is not going to bring anyone back.”

Aside from releasing a statement in the hours after Kelly Gissendaner’s clemency was first denied, the family of Doug Gissendaner has remained silent. Their statement did not directly address Kelly Gissendaner’s execution, instead thanking Gwinnett prosecutors and law enforcement officials and asking for privacy.

“Doug was a wonderful person and beloved father, son, brother, grandson, nephew, cousin and friend,” the statement said. “He is so loved by all of us and we cherish the memories we have of him. We will never forget the goodness and kindness he brought to this world. We will love him always.”

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