JACKSON, GA (WXIA) -- Kelly Renee Gissendaner, the only woman on Georgia's death row, was executed at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson early Wednesday. She was the first woman to be executed in the state in the past 70 years.
The execution order was carried out at 12:21 am.
11Alive's Jeff Hullinger, the only television reporter present inside the prison during the execution, said Gissendaner sang 'Amazing Grace' all the way through before dying, He says she was very emotional, sobbing. She called her ex-husband an "amazing man who died because of me."
Gissendaner was convicted for her role in the 1997 murder of Doug Gissendaner.
Late Tuesday evening, the US Supreme Court denied three separate applications for clemency by Gissendaner's legal team. In addition, the Georgia Supreme Court had already denied a similar request for clemency. An appeal earlier in the day before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals had also been denied shortly before 8 pm.
All of the moves came after the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles denied Gissendaner's application of reconsideration of clemency earlier in the afternoon. Her attorneys delivered an argument to the Board Tuesday morning.
Gissendaner's execution by lethal injection had originally been scheduled for 7 pm Tuesday at the prison facility in Jackson.
"In reaching its decision, the Board thoroughly reviewed all information and documents pertaining to the case, including the latest information presented by Gissendaner's representatives," a release sent from Board chairman Terry Barnard said. No other explanation of the decision was given.
Gissendaner's attorneys argued the death penalty is disproportionate to the crime since Gissendaner was not the trigger-person in her husband's death. Georgia has not executed what they call a "non-trigger person" since 1976. The application is also filled with numerous accounts from fellow prisoners testifying about Gissendaner's positive influence in their lives and in the prison system. After 45 minutes of testimony the Board started deliberations. At 2:30, the Board made the announcement clemency had been denied.
After 8:30 pm, Kayla Gissendaner, one of Kelly's daughters, came to the prison to speak to supporters gathered outside.
Monday, a federal judge denied a request to stay the execution of Kelly Gissendaner. In a the federal court hearing, Gissendaner's attorneys asked judge Thomas Thrash to reconsider an earlier lawsuit declaring lethal injection as a form of cruel and unusual punishment. Thrash denied the stay. The attorneys tell 11Alive's Valerie Hoff they will now appeal to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Tuesday, a representative of Pope Francis sent a letter to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles asking for clemency:
While not wishing to minimize the gravity of the crime for which Ms.. Gissendaner has been convicted, and while sympathizing with the victims, I nonetheless implore you, in consideration of the reasons chat have been presented to your Board, to commute the sentence to one that would better express both justice and mercy.
Read the full letter here. The Catholic Archdiocese held a 2:00 press conference Tuesday afternoon to discuss the letter and plea for clemency.
Gissendaner was sentenced to death in November 1998 after being convicted of recruiting her boyfriend to kill her husband. The boyfriend, Gregory Bruce Owen, pleaded guilty and testified against her in exchange for a life sentence. He told the jury how the mother of three carefully planned her husband's death. Monday, Doug Gissenaner's family issued a statement urging people to focus on the victim in this case in the hours leading up to the execution.
Gissendaner came close to execution twice already this year. The first time, a February winter storm prevented travel. The second attempt in March was aborted when the lethal drug, pentobarbital, appeared cloudy. Officials first called a pharmacist, and then called off the execution "out of an abundance of caution".
Tuesday's execution attempt would mark the third attempt.
A rally is support of her was held Monday evening at the state capitol in downtown Atlanta. Dozens of supporters turned out in hopes of influencing the state Board of Pardons and Paroles ahead of Tuesday's meeting.
Gissendaner's last meal was served to her at 4:00 Tuesday afternoon. Unlike the rather large "last meal" she requested before her March execution date, she has asked for chips and cheese dip, fajita nachos and a diet frosted lemonade.
Read the full application for clemency below [mobile users, use this link]