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Georgia executes Kelly Gissendaner after multiple denied appeals

Protesters gathered at a vigil on the Capitol steps yesterday

Kelly Gissendaner was executed early this morning, five hours after her scheduled 7 p.m. execution due to a series of pending decisions from the U.S Supreme Court. Convicted in the 1997 murder of her husband Douglas, Gissendaner was found guilty of conspiring with her then boyfriend Gregory Owen, who committed the murder without her present. Gissendaner, the only woman on Georgia’s death row and the first woman to be executed in the state in 70 years, is also the first non-trigger person to be executed in the state since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.
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?Protesters gathered for a vigil on Georgia State Capitol's steps yesterday to show support for Gissendaner and rebuke the United States’ use of the death penalty. Due to the series of pending appeal decisions with the U.S. Supreme Court, protesters left unsure of Gissendaner’s future.
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?“It is just past 7 p.m., and we have heard no word, so we might assume that Kelly is on the gurney; that she has been prepared for execution and that she will shortly die,” Murphy Davis, a Presbyterian pastor and death penalty abolitionist, announced over the loudspeaker outside the Capitol. After hearing that the execution would be delayed, but that a stay of execution was not granted, Davis and other protesters went home. “We are in a state between grief and hope,” Davis said.
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?Gissendaner’s execution was originally scheduled for Feb. 25, 2015, but was rescheduled to March 2 due to a winter storm and again indefinitely when the lethal injection drug, pentobarbital, was deemed unsafe. On Sept. 18, the Sept. 29 execution date was set. The decision to postpone was used to file an unsuccessful appeal to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in regard to the scheduled September execution when Gissendaner’s lawyers argued that the same methods to obtain and use the drug remained and therefore violated the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. Gissendaner’s lawyers applied for clemency in February and requested that the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles reconsider its decision to deny. The Board called for a meeting this week to “receive supplemental information for or against clemency for Kelly Gissendaner” on Tues., Sept. 29, the day of Gissendaner’s scheduled execution, but let its previous decision to deny stand.
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?The final appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court argued that the death penalty was a disproportionate punishment given that Gissendaner was not physically involved in the criminal act:
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?“Have societal standards of decency evolved to the point that the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments now prohibit the execution of a capital defendant who did not physically participate in the murder of her victim?”, the appeal asked.
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?Protesters echoed this in their criticism of the death penalty.
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?“We think that the state of Georgia and the United States needs to listen to the moral voice of America and the moral voice of the world, really — the voice of the Pope — and most other dignified countries that have abolished this,” said Sophie Callahan, a student at the Candler School of Theology, who spoke on behalf of her fellow classmates protesting the death penalty last night.
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?The United States is among countries with the most executions in the world in 2014, including China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Sudan. Within the U.S., Georgia is 1 of only 7 states that have used the death penalty in the last two years, and 1 of 31 where the use of the punishment is still legal.
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