taking the words of Jesus seriously


EDITOR’S NOTE: Yesterday Shane Claiborne shared the story of Kelly Gissendaner, a woman sentenced to die whose execution was postponed this week because of inclement weather. Though the execution has been rescheduled for Monday, March 2nd, faith leaders from around the country have come together to stand with Kelly, her former warden, and many others who are asking Governor Deal of Georgia to grant clemency and allow Kelly to live out the rest of her life in the prison community where she has become a minister to others. Below is a video of supporters reading from Kelly’s writings and a letter from faith leaders around the country. We invite you to add your name and join us in prayer for our sister Kelly.


Kelly Gissendaner from Sema Films on Vimeo.


As religious leaders, we are deeply concerned that the execution of Kelly Gissendaner is scheduled to be carried out on Monday, March 2, by the State of Georgia. We respectfully write to you as a key public servant who can make the critical difference in this tragic case of national importance.


Our various faith traditions and teachings hold that all life is sacred. On the issue of the death penalty, we unanimously believe that fairness must be paramount. We also believe in the power of mercy.


Shaped by these beliefs, we find grounds for the commutation of Kelly’s sentence to a sentence of life without parole. These grounds include:


–  Kelly has accepted full responsibility for her involvement in the murder of her husband, Douglas Gissendaner, saying “it is impossible to put into words the overwhelming sorrow and remorse I feel … there is just no way to capture the depth of my sorrow and regret. I would change everything if I could.”

– Over the course of her 18 years of incarceration, Kelly has experienced a profound spiritual transformation, maturing as a person and in her faith. Her journey is vividly demonstrated in her support of other inmates and her witness to young people in prison-prevention programs. On more than one occasion, Kelly has prevented another inmate from taking their own life. As one correctional officer said in the clemency petition, “Her witness has been an amazing beacon in a very dark place. Kelly touches everybody …The kindness and witness she shares with inmates in lockdown has a positive ripple effect.”

– Kelly is respected by Department of Corrections staff; she is seen as an example to other inmates and viewed as an asset to the institution. A former warden said of Kelly, “[s]he can provide hope to the most desperate female offender in a manner no one else could possibly understand.”

– If the state proceeds to execute Kelly, it will be the first time in the modern death penalty era (post-1976) that Georgia has executed an individual who was not the “trigger person” — that is, the person who actually used violence in the crime.


​While we can recognize and deeply sympathize with the profound grief of the parents and extended family of Doug Gissendaner, we also must attend to the ongoing grief of Kelly’s children who have already lost a father and who will experience immeasurable pain in losing another parent. In solidarity with their pleas for their mother’s life, in keeping with the value of mercy, and in hope for the good works Kelly could perform during a sentence of life without parole, we ask that Kelly’s life be spared.


To add your name to the letter,  click here and enter your information. Deadline for signatures is midnight on Sunday, February 29th, 2015.


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