In February of 1997, Greg Owen stabbed Doug Gissendaner until there was no life left in his body. Can you hear the screams? Can you smell the blood? Can you imagine the horror of it all? Make no mistake…this was an act of pure evil. Though not even present for the crime, the mastermind was Kelly Gissendaner.
Prosecutors often argue that the mastermind is more culpable than the person who actually carries out the murder. In order to secure a death sentence, prosecutors convinced a jury that Gissendaner was motivated by greed and used Owen as her weapon. Even at the last minute, Gissendaner could have even changed her mind and tried to save her husband’s life. I find these arguments highly convincing. I believe that Gissendaner played the pivotal role in this tremendous act of evil. Even more than that, I agree with the prosecutor and think she deserves to die.
For the last few months, fellow Christians worked tirelessly to save Gissendaner’s life. With the hashtag #kellyonmymind on constant display, we were reminded over and over that Gissendaner received a theological education, reconciled with her kids, mentored other inmates and repented. The problem is that all of these arguments and actions are probably going to fall short of saving her life. The reality is that this is not about Gissendaner. This is a woman who committed a crime so heinous that she deserves to die. The only question that remains is the only question that could’ve saved Gissendaner’s life. Who deserves to kill her?
People have been planning the execution of Kelly Gissendaner for a long time. The premeditation has involved perfecting procedures, securing drugs, finding accomplices and even convincing people to watch. Through both inaction and their elected officials, the entire State of Georgia will be responsible. These actions are not all that different than the premeditated murder that Gissendaner masterminded. The fallacy of the death penalty is that it turns an entire state into the premeditated murderers that they are executing. I remember Jesus saying something about, “Whoever is without sin cast the first stone.”
The campaign to make Gissendaner into a sympathetic figure has been very successful. The problem is that niceness doesn’t save lives. We have to remind people of their complicity in the premeditated murder that is about to take place. While I am sure that Gissendaner has changed, the only way to save lives is to convince people to drop the knife.