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Gissendaner executed despite Pope Francis’s plea

By Sarah Mac Donald - 30 September, 2015

DeathPenalty-merlThe US state of Georgia on Tuesday went ahead with the execution of Kelly Gissendaner despite a plea by Pope Francis for her sentence to be commuted to life.

During his tour of the US last week, the Pope spoke out against capital punishment.

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles denied clemency to Kelly Gissendaner earlier on Tuesday afternoon and the execution by lethal injection went ahead on Tuesday evening.

She is the first woman to be executed in Georgia since 1945.

She was sentenced to death for convincing her boyfriend to kill her husband Douglas Gissendaner in 1997.

Prosecutors said she conspired with Gregory Owen, her boyfriend, who stabbed her husband to death.

Owen testified against Gissendaner in a plea deal secured him with a sentence of life in prison without parole.

In a letter to the Board of Pardons and Paroles, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano noted that Pope Francis has advocated for the global abolition of the death penalty since the beginning of his ministry.

He also quoted the Pontiff’s words to the US Congress on 24 September when he stated, “I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes.”

In his letter, Archbishop Vigano said that he did not wish to minimise the gravity of the crime for which Gissendaner was convicted and that he sympathised with the victims.

“I nonetheless implore you … to commute the sentence to one that would better express both justice and mercy.”

“Please be assured of my prayers as you consider this request by Pope Francis for what I believe would be a just act of clemency,” Archbishop Vigano wrote.

Gissendaner’s application for clemency noted that she has been a model prisoner and that the person who actually carried out the crime received a lighter sentence than she did.

Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta read the nuncio’s letter to a news conference on Tuesday.

He also referred to his own request to the parole board last week in which he was sought to highlight the need “to contribute to a civilisation that promotes human dignity by striking a balance between the demands of justice and the need for charity. Commuting the death sentence of Kelly Gissendaner to one of life without parole is compatible with that goal,” he said.

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