Friday, February 05, 2010


Gaile Owens' Attorneys Argue for a New Sentence

Today Gaile Owens' attorneys argued to the Tennessee Supreme Court that her execution date should not be set, and instead, that her death sentence be commuted to life.

Gaile was sentenced to death by a Memphis jury for hiring Sidney Porterfield to kill her husband in 1985. But, the jury never heard testimony concerning the severe abuse she suffered at the hands of her husband nor did the jury know that she was willing to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence.

Gaile has expressed remorse for her husband's murder and is the only inmate in Tennessee prison history to receive a death sentence after accepting a prosecutor's offer to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence. Gaile is a model inmate at the Tennessee Prison for Women where she works as a clerk.

A recent review of nine similar cases featured in the Tennessean shows that over the past 25 years, six of the women in these cases have since received full probation or early parole, two others are serving life sentences but are entitled to parole hearings, and only one, Gaile Owens, is facing a death sentence after 23 years on death row.

Now the Tennessee Supreme Court will decide whether to commute Gaile's death sentence to life or set a date for her execution. If they decide to set an execution date, her last hope for clemency will be with the Governor.

We will keep you informed of developments in this case and ways that you can get involved to stop this execution. If Tennessee moves forward with its plans to execute her, she will be the first woman executed by the state of Tennessee since the execution of Eve Martin in 1820.

Gaile's case is yet one more indication of how broken the current death penalty system is. She went to trial with lawyers who were unprepared, recording only 2 hours of pre-trial investigation and no expert assistance--2 hours to prepare for a trial for this woman's life. The national standard is to spend hundreds, if not thousands, of hours investigating such a case before trial. Her case has moved through the entire appeals process without critical issues ever getting addressed. Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has denied to hear her case, she has almost run out of options.

How can the case of a woman who is a victim of severe domestic abuse, was willing to plead guilty, had almost no representation at trial, and has always shown remorse for her actions move all the way through the appeals system with no remedy? Because the system is broken and cannot be trusted to determine who should live and who should die.

Let's hope the Tennessee Supreme Court will remedy this situation and commute Gaile's sentence to life. Stay tuned.

Read the Tennessean article here.
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