The Georgia inmate was the first woman to be executed in the Peach state in 70 years. She sang "Amazing Grace" as the lethal injection was administered just after midnight a little less than an hour's drive outside of Atlanta.
Thousands and thousands of emails, phone calls, tweets and one-on-one appeals on behalf of Kelly Gissendaner, a mother of two now grown children, fell on deaf ears.
I emailed the Georgia Correctional Facilities this morning and sent out a tweet. I meant to call the number many people of good faith shared online but got busy with the things you get busy with.
Even Pope Francis, having just returned to the Vatican from the U.S., sent a personal emissary to appeal on behalf of Kelly, saying:
"While not wishing to minimize the gravity of the crime for which Ms. Gissendaner has been convicted, and while sympathizing with the victims, I nonetheless implore you, in consideration of the reasons that have been presented to your Board, to commute the sentence to one that would better express both justice and mercy"
What did Kelly do?
18 years ago she plotted to kill her husband Doug. She convinced her lover, at the time, to stab him to death in cold blood while she hung out at a bar with friends. She convinced her lover to kill not only her husband, but the father of her two children.
Let's be clear: she did not kill her husband.
Someone else did. A guy named Gregory Owen.
And Gregory arranged a plea bargain which, under Georgia law, allows him to be released in 8 years.
The remarkable thing about Kelly Gissendaner is that she later admitted her transgressions were not only wrong, but brutal.
While in prison these past 18 years on death row [question: why does it take so long if we're so committed to it?] she enlisted in a theological program, part of a consortium of schools that includes the prestigious Emory University. While in her program she befriended, and was in turn, befriended, by the renown German theologian Jurgen Moltmann.
Anyone who is worth their weight, not only as a theologian, but even as a pastor, has had to wrestle with Moltmann's reflections on God -- especially his detailed ruminations on suffering, hope and liberation.
Moltmann would know, after all: he was a prisoner of war, on the wrong side of World War II as a young naive conscript, mechanistically administrating the Führer's orders for a Nazi Germany hellbent on world domination and destruction.
After the war and after his own journey of repentance, Moltmann would commit his life to reflecting on the suffering God of Jesus who identified with the world's most vulnerable.
Jurgen Moltmann wrote this, in a book he wrote called Crucified God:
"Faith, the church and theology must demonstrate what they really believe and hope about the man from Nazareth who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and what practical consequences they wish to draw from this. The crucified Christ himself is a challenge to Christian theology and the Christian church, which dare to call themselves by his name."
Moltmann's point, is that we often are seduced by a false idea of a triumphal God rather than the One who appeared in the flesh of Jesus of Nazareth who came to be with the people in their ordinary lives and real-life trials. We, instead, like a tidy, heroic and triumphal God who doesn't suffer but defeats all his enemies.
The goddamn truth is that Jesus was executed, by capitol punishment, on trumped up charges.
In his 80s, Jurgen Moltmann not only became a sort of theological tutor for Kelly in her Atlanta prison studies, but attended and spoke at the graduation ceremony of her 11-strong class.
Kelly was executed a little after midnight on September 30th.
She plotted to kill her husband, the father of her two children.
And yet, she demonstrated real remorse, real life-change, and real repentance, to use a religious word.
And still, the state of Georgia executed her -- the first woman they've executed since WWII (when a very young Moltmann was sitting as a prisoner of war in a Nazi uniform).
The death penalty needs to be firmly and forever banned in the U.S. We are worse off as a people for allowing anyone to be put to death -- no matter however heinous their crimes.
Regardless if one repents and reforms like Kelly or not, the death penalty needs to be forever outlawed.
Unfortunately, we as a people, get to face this in a little over 15 hours as Richard Glossip faces execution in Oklahoma. Time is ticking.
Lord, have mercy.