The US has executed a woman in Georgia, despite last-minute appeals from the Pope

Death row inmate Kelly Renee Gissendaner, now executed.

Washington (AFP) – The US state of Georgia executed its first woman in 70 years early Wednesday despite an appeal for clemency by Pope Francis.

“At 12:21 am (0441 GMT) the court ordered execution of Kelly Gissendaner was carried out in accordance of state law. She made a final statement and requested a prayer,” a spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Corrections said.

Gissendaner is the first woman to be executed in the southern state since 1945.

According to the BBC, witnesses to the execution say she was singing Amazing Grace just moments before receiving the lethal injection.

The 47-year-old planned her husband’s murder in 1997, while her then-lover, who carried out the murder, was sentenced to life in prison.

Pope Francis had urged the state to reconsider the execution while Gissendaner’s lawyers had also claimed the death row inmate had undergone a transformation in prison and showed full remorse for her crime.

The Pope had expressed his upset through a letter written by his US representative, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano. He said that he hoped the state would be able to “commute the sentence to one that would better express both justice and mercy.”

Pleas from her children, who are said to be “heartbroken,” and members of the public had also called on the state of Georgia to revise their decision to execute Kelly Gissendander, staging public protests and candle-lit vigils.

Supporters Dorinda Tatum, Rev Michelle Ledder and Minister Cassandra Henderson react after hearing the news of the execution of Kelly Gissendaner at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, Georgia early September 30, 2015.
REUTERS/Tami Chappell

More than 91,000 people had signed an online petition in an attempt to halt the execution. The petition said: She [Kelly] is a woman who has been profoundly transformed while in prison. Kelly is a mother, a theologian, and a pastoral figure to many.”

“As people of faith, we hold that all life is sacred. We also believe in mercy. Shaped by these beliefs, we are calling on Governor Nathan Deal’s Board of Pardons and Paroles to commute Kelly’s sentence from death to life in prison without parole.”