Use your power to stop the execution of Kelly Gissendaner by insisting that her sentence be commuted to life in prison without parole. She is a woman who has been profoundly transformed while in prison. Kelly is a mother, a theologian, and a pastoral figure to many. Do not let this travesty of justice happen on your watch. Do not squander the opportunity to extend mercy.A very dear friend of mine linked to Kelly’s petition on her Facebook page. I’m mostly opposed to the death penalty. I believe in the value of forgiveness and grace. I couldn’t figure out why this summary, this "travesty of justice," bothered me at first.
Protests and petitions about the death penalty and its horrors are nothing new. The Innocence Project and its siblings are arguably some of the most admirable movements happening in America right now. So, at first, the petition for Kelly Gissendaner might not seem all that unusual… yet… it is.
It’s unusual because no one is questioning her guilt. She’s guilty. Totally. She helped to plot the murder of her husband. She and her lover, Greg Owen, murdered. For love. Or something.
Yet at present there is a petition with more than 87,000 signatures because Kelly turned her life around. She found God, and she’s important to a lot of people, and her children don’t want to lose both of their parents for something awful that happened almost 20 years ago.
And oh yeah, mostly because Kelly Gissendaner is a woman.
We simply don’t like killing women. Killing men doesn't much phase us. We're numb to it. That Execute Men ship sailed long ago. Since 1976, only 15 women have been executed in the United States. In that same time, 1,414 men have been executed. That means barely more than 1 out of every 100 people executed in premeditated fashion by the government in this country have been female.
How many times can you recall 87,000-plus signatures on a single petition for a man who has admitted responsibility for a crime worthy of the death penalty?
Surely, over the years, there have been men like Kelly. Men who did horrific stuff, sat in jail for years awaiting their fate, yet redeemed themselves on some level in the eyes of God if not humankind. But we don’t garner 87,000 signatures for them. Not unless we believe they didn’t do it. Like in Serial, where we can convince ourselves that we’re lobbying for a (maybe, fingers crossed) wrongfully-convicted innocent. Some will defend men they believe are innocent. But the guilty but repentant ones? Ha.
No sane person would dare argue that women are less violent, less horrible. As genders and crime go, women are way way better human beings than men. They just are. And it’s not sexist to say that, because there’s not a statistic on the planet that would refute it. About the only place where we’re equally pathetic, criminally speaking, is in shoplifting. Beyond that, men basically own the criminal landscape. Because we suck.
But… how many male Kelly Gissendaners are there out there right now? How many have there been since 1976? Statistically speaking, surely there are at least 30-40 men on death row who have repented. Who do good deeds. Who are sincerely remorseful… yet where are their defenders and protectors?
If Justice is indeed blind, why does she seem to pity one gender so much more than the other? Isn’t this sexism? Isn’t it because we have always been comfortable believing men deserve awful consequences, while women deserve a second chance? Aren’t we comfortable believing women simply can’t be Evil in quite the same awful despicable way that men are Evil?
Kelly Geissendaner would be the 16th woman formally executed by our government. That’s 16 too many, to be sure. But how much of anyone’s sympathy and effort has she earned in comparison to the more than 1,400 men who have befallen the same fate, the unknown hundreds who turned their lives around?
If she was a man, she’d be dead already, and few if any beyond friends and loved ones would have batted an eye. Is that Justice? Is that the American Way? Dunno, but it is the Truth.