Georgia faith community credits God, prayer for execution delay

by Vanessa Garcia Rodriguez, |

LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. (Christian Examiner) -- The March 2 execution of a Georgia woman was postponed when a problem occurred with the drugs for her lethal injection, an incident some are calling an intervention by God.

If not for the delay, Kelly Gissendaner would have become the 15th woman executed by Georgia and the first in 70 years.

Gissendaner's death penalty has been postposed twice -- first on Feb. 25 due to bad weather and then on March 2 because corrections officials reportedly found a sample of the drugs appeared cloudy.

Gissendaner was found guilty of plotting the 1997 death of her husband Douglas Gissendaner and instructing her then boyfriend Gregory Owen to commit the crime. Owen testified against her and was sentenced to life.

While jailed the 46-year-old mother of three completed a theology program and claims to have experienced a spiritual transformation that even led her to spiritually mentor a number of inmates.

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles has twice denied requests for clemency despite appeals by her children and a letter signed by 500 Georgia clergy and delivered to the governor. Even several inmates, who were rehabilitated because of her spiritual mentorship, spoke on her behalf.

An appeal to the 11th U.S. Circuit of Appeals resulted in a denied request for a stay of her execution.

Meanwhile religious communities nationwide have held vigils for Gissendaner while still others seek to petition on her behalf. A Groundswell campaign, asking Georgia Governor Nathan Deal to reduce Gissendaner's sentence to life in prison, had collected nearly 83,000 signatures by Wednesday.

"As people of faith, we hold that all life is sacred. We also believe in mercy," the Groundswell campaign page states. "Shaped by these beliefs, we find grounds to commute Kelly's death sentence to a sentence of life without parole. Yet, on Tuesday she was denied clemency and condemned to die."

The Facebook page Worldwide Seminary Vigils for Kelly Gissendane, dedicated to coordinating prayer events with the hope of saving Gissendaner's life, addressed subscribers Wednesday morning:

Dear Supporters,

HOPE IS STILL ALIVE - Kelly is still alive!

Very late last night, because of a problem with the lethal injection drug, Kelly's execution was postponed.

And now, all planned executions in Georgia have been temporarily postponed.

The post went on to say, " Wow. You helped make this happen!" and urged readers to call the governor and attorney general and to mobilize via social media to end Gissendaner's execution as well as all executions.

According to NBC News, the state of Georgia uses pentobarbital for lethal injection executions, but an FDA-approved form of the drug is no longer available. Instead, the state has the drug compounded by specialty pharmacies, a process some argue is problematic.

An execution warrant for Gissendaner's lethal injection sets a window through Wednesday. A new date has not yet been given.

Douglas Gissendaner's parents and sister, issued a statement through the Gwinnett County district attorney's office indicating they wished to see the execution move forward.