Local group supports death row inmate Kelly Gissendaner until the end
"There was no doubt that Kelly had experienced a fundamental change in prison," said Beth Foster, co-director of Mercy Junction Justice & Peace Center in Chattanooga.
Foster worked closely with a group called the Struggle Sisters, organized by formerly incarcerated women, some of whom spent time with Gissendaner while behind bars. "Most of them attributed Kelly to saving their lives," said Foster.
The group fought with everything they had until the very last minute so save Gissendaner’s life, and they weren’t alone. Before the mother of two was scheduled for execution, Pope Francis addressed the state with a letter asking the board to spare her life.
"We shouldn’t have the death penalty," said Brian Merritt, co-director of Mercy Junction, "It’s a barbaric system. We should be at a point where we don’t need such an idea of retribution."
Leading up to her last days, Gissendaner’s appeal lawyers said she expressed deep remorse for her actions, was a model inmate and grew spiritually. Pope Francis also sent a letter to the state saying he wanted the board to spare her life.
Only 15 women have been executed in the United States since 1977, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. The last woman executed in Georgia died in the electric chair in 1945.