The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

Was Kelly Gissendaner’s death justifiable?


Kelly Gissendaner, a prisoner from Georgia, has made headlines because she was the first woman put to death by the state in seven decades. Gissendaner was convicted of murder in February of 1997 after she conspired with her lover to stab her husband, Douglas Gissendaner.

Many people attempted to stop Gissendaner’s execution, including Pope Francis and Gissendaner’s three children. Her children were unable to be with her on the day of her execution because they were in a meeting with the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles making one last ditch effort to save their mother’s life.

Gissendaner’s lawyers argued that her sentencing was unjust considering her role in the crime and the fact that Gregory Owen, the lover who actually committed the murder, was sentenced to a life prison sentence and will be eligible for parole in 2022.

The difference in sentences speaks volumes. Even though Gissendaner never murdered her husband, she is still being punished more severely than the man who actually committed the crime.

Although what she did was wrong and she should be punished, sentencing her to death and executing her was unjust and wrong. The court system was attempting to use her as an example in order to send a message to the public that they are not playing any games and are willing to administer the death penalty even if they haven’t in a while.

Throughout her time in prison, Gissendaner was a model prisoner and helped fellow prisoners adjust to life behind bars. She even prevented some women from committing suicide, as well as mentored juveniles. Prison guards who knew Gissendaner wanted to speak on her behalf, but nothing proved to be enough to stop the execution.

Mr. Gissendaner’s family feels that she was sentenced appropriately and that their son is the real victim in all of this. Again, Douglas is the victim here and that justice should be served, but it’s unconscionable how one of the two people involved was executed and the other, the one who actually, physically committed the murder, will be eligible for parole and possibly able to enter back into society.

Four sitting judges, including a Supreme Court judge, said that they would have granted her stay, but it was not enough and the execution proceeded as scheduled. Before she was injected, Gissendaner apologized for her part in the crime and sang “Amazing Grace.”  

Gissendaner should have received a sentence similar, if not the same, as her accomplice in the crime, seeing as her part was more mental rather than physical.

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