Wednesday, February 25, 2015

For a Chance To Chat

It was February 1997 when Doug Gissendaner was found stabbed repeatedly, murdered, in a remote wooded area of Georgia, about a mile from where his car was recovered.

He'd been missing for a week.

Gregory Owen pleaded guilty to the murder. But he was, according to the prosecutors, just the instrument.  All he did was kill.  The, er, mastermind was Kelly Gissendaner, Doug's wife.  She and Owen were having an affair.  He wanted her to divorce Doug.  She wanted Owen to kill him.  

Greg's doing life.  Kelly's on death row.  She's to be killed today.  She'll be the first woman in Georgia to be executed in 70 years.

This isn't about her.  It's about her daughter, Kayla, who was 7 at the time.  Kate Brumback in the Washington Times quotes a letter she wrote to the Parole Board.
My father’s death was extremely painful for many people, but I’ve recently concluded that in many ways I was the person who was most impacted by his murder. 
Her father's death was, she said,
the most painful experience of my life.
She wrote in the letter about her bitterness and anger.  She wrote about how she wanted no contact with her mother.  Which you've gotta say is hardly surprising.  

But she, and her brother Dakota who also wrote, talked about how that has, over the years, changed. They have, in Brumback's words, formed meaningful relationships with her now.  Kayla:
The impact of losing my mother would be devastating. I can’t fathom losing another parent. 
Years ago, I listened as members of a capital jury explained how it is that they'd decided against sentencing a woman to death for ordering the contract killing of her husband.  In that case, their children had testified against their mother, had talked to the jury about how what she'd done had destroyed their lives.

And yet the jury voted for life.  Not because the mother didn't deserve to be killed, they said.  Not because of anything about her.  But because, finally, those jurors concluded, that someday the kids might want to know just why their mother had their father killed.  Someday, those jurors concluded,  
her children might want to ask their mother about it.  Someday, those jurors concluded, her children might just want to talk with their mother.  

If she were dead, they wouldn't have that chance.

Kayla and Dakota Gissendaner would understand. 

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