ATLANTA - The only woman on Georgia's death row is scheduled to be executed next week, more than six months after her previously scheduled execution was called off at the last minute because of a problem with the lethal execution drugs.
A judge on Friday set a seven-day execution window that starts Sept. 29 for Kelly Renee Gissendaner, 47, and Department of Corrections Commissioner Homer Bryson set her execution for 7 p.m. that night at the state prison in Jackson, the department announced Monday.
If the execution happens, Gissendaner will be the first woman executed by the state in 70 years. She was convicted of murder in the February 1997 slaying of her husband, Douglas Gissendaner. Prosecutors said she conspired with her lover, Gregory Owen, who stabbed Douglas Gissendaner to death. Owen, who took a plea deal and testified against Gissendaner, is serving a life sentence and he will be eligible for parole in 2022.
Gissendaner's supporters on Saturday released a video featuring two of their client's three children. Dakota and Kayla Gissendaner talk in the video about overcoming their intense anger at their mother and the difficult journey to forgiving her.
"Forgiving our mother was the best way to truly honor our dad's memory," Dakota Gissendaner, who was 5 when his father died, said in the video.
"My brothers and I have dealt with our anger toward our mother and her role in dad's death in different ways, but we are united in our hope that she won't be executed. We've lost our dad. We can't imagine losing our mom too," Kayla Gissendaner, who was 7 when her father died, wrote in a statement that accompanied the video.
Gissendaner was previously scheduled for execution on Feb. 25, but that was delayed because of a threat of winter weather. Her execution was reset for March 2, but corrections officials postponed that execution "out of an abundance of caution" because the execution drug appeared "cloudy."
Georgia corrections officials temporarily suspended executions in the state until a drug analysis could be done. In April, they released lab reports, a sworn statement from a pharmacological expert hired by the state and a short video showing a syringe of clear liquid with chunks of a white solid floating in the solution.
Corrections officials have said the most likely cause of the formation of solids in the compounded pentobarbital was shipping and storage at a temperature that was too cold, but they noted that storage at a low temperature does not always cause pentobarbital to precipitate.
The Department of Corrections does not currently have pentobarbital on hand but will obtain it before the execution date, spokeswoman Gwendolyn Hogan said in an email. She did not immediately return phone messages Monday and did not respond when asked several times by email whether the drug would come from the same compounding pharmacy that provided the problematic pentobarbital earlier this year.
Gissendaner's lawyers had filed a lawsuit in March saying the period of uncertainty after her execution was postponed, not knowing whether the state would try to proceed again before the execution window expired and what drugs it might use, amounted to "unconstitutional torment and uncertainty." They also raised questions about the quality of the lethal injection drug the state would be able to get in the future.
A federal judge last month dismissed that lawsuit, and Gissendaner's lawyers have asked him to reconsider.