The execution of Kelly Renee Gissendaner, 46, had a rare interruption this week. The first female prisoner to be executed by the state of Georgia in 70 years was halted not by an order of the governor or the Supreme Court. It was delayed on account of “inclimate weather.” I have not seen such a “called for weather” delay in an execution, which is generally set by order or statute as occurring on a set day.
The Gissendaner case is an interesting example of the risks inherent in trial. The man who actually killed Gissendaner’s husband Douglas Gissendaner in 1997 was her lover. She was found to have conspired in the killing with Gregory Owen and she actually went to the scene soon after the killing to confirm his death. She then helped burn his car and later appeared on television begging for help in locating her husband. Her lover eventually confessed in interrogation and took a deal for life imprisonment. The same deal was offered to Gissendaner. However, her trial attorney (not without good reason and with her consent) believed that it was rare for a jury to sentence a women to death and that, since she did not actually do the killing, it was unlikely that she would be sentenced to death. The gamble proved wrong when she was sentenced to death. However, I think the calculated risk was not unreasonable. The trial attorney clearly believed that the chance of an acquittal (no matter how slim) was still worth attempting since under the plea agreement she would be looking at life regardless.
The 57 women on death row represent only 1.88 percent of the total population.
I cannot remember a prior execution suspended for weather as opposed to some mechanical problem. The Wednesday execution will be rescheduled for Monday, given Gissendaner an added weekend.
Gissendaner’s last meal has generated some attention. The final meal was quite detailed, including two Burger King Whoppers with fries, popcorn, cornbread, a salad with Paul Newman buttermilk dressing, lemonade, and cherry vanilla ice cream.
That last meal however is a virtual slim fast compared to Gary Carl Simmons Jr. in Mississippi who was executed in 2012 after ordering a Pizza Hut supreme deep dish pizza, a family size bag of Doritos, two large strawberry milkshakes, two cherry Cokes, a super-sized order of McDonald’s fries, and two pints of strawberry ice cream, along with sides of parmesan cheese, nacho cheese, ranch dressing, and a side of jalapeños. The meal weighed in at over 14,000 calories. One big difference is that women often order salads for their last meal.