Supporters hold vigil for Kelly Gissendaner

DECATUR, Ga. – Supporters held a vigil for the only woman on Georgia's death row the night before her scheduled execution.

Kelly Gissendaner was sentenced to death for masterminding a plot to have her then-boyfriend kill her husband, Doug Gissendaner, in February 1997.

A group of clergy, family, friends and supporters gathered Sunday at the William Cannon Chapel at Emory University to pray for Gissendaner. Gissendaner's three adult children sat in the front row.

A number of clergy members have met with Gissendaner in her 18 years of incarceration. They say she's a changed person, noting that she's graduated a year-long theology program. They say she received a certificate and even did some preaching and teaching behind bars. They have also circulated a signed letter asking for a last minute stay of execution so that her life is spared.

"She cannot undo what she's done," said the Rev. Cathy Zappa, the director of the prison theology program. "She cannot take anyone's pain away. But she's living her life in a way that shows she takes what she's done very seriously and she is trying to turn her life to good."

Nicky Rogers served time at the same prison as Gissendaner. She said that the death row inmates's voice, spoken through a heating vent, kept her from committing suicide.

"I'll believe to my last breath that I owe everything to you. Thank you Kelly," Rogers said.

Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter maintains that Gissendaner's death sentence is appropriate for her crime.

"The sentence is appropriate for the crime that was committed and the circumstances of this case," Porter said. "Really, what she's done since is almost not something that needs to be considered."

Last week, the Pardons and Paroles Board denied clemency for Gissendaner. Doug Gissendaner's relatives continue to stand behind the verdict and sentence.

Kelly Gissendaner is scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection Monday night. The execution had been scheduled for last Wednesday, but was delayed until Monday due to a winter storm.

Gissendaner's supporters say they'll hold a news conference Monday at 10:30 a.m. in the Georgia Capitol rotunda. A group of clergy will deliver a letter signed by more than 500 faith leaders to Gov. Nathan Deal, asking to spare Gissendaner's life.

By law, Georgia's governor can not issue a stay of execution. It would have to be issued by the U.S. Supreme Court.


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