Kelly Gissendaner execution postponed over problem with lethal drug

Kelly Gissendaner
Kelly Gissendaner photographed in 2004 at Metro State Prison in Atlanta.

The execution of the only woman on Georgia's death row was postponed late Monday because of a problem with the drugs in the lethal injection. Kelly Gissendaner was waiting to hear if the U.S. Supreme Court would halt her execution when the Georgia Department of Corrections called it off about 11 p.m.

"Prior to the execution, the drugs were sent to an independent lab for testing of potency," the agency said. "The drugs fell within the acceptable testing limits."

But, official said, in the hours leading up to the execution, the chemicals appeared cloudy.

"The Department of Corrections immediately consulted with a pharmacist, and in an abundance of caution, Inmate Gissendaner's execution has been postponed."

RELATED: Georgia to execute first woman in 70 years by lethal injection

Gissendaner was sentenced to death for the 1997 murder of her husband — carried out by her lover, who got a life sentence. A letter to the governor signed by 500 Georgia clergy members said the mother of three, who completed a theology program in prison, has turned her life around since the murder.

The 11th U.S. Circuit of Appeals denied a request for a stay of execution Monday, rejecting defense claims that Georgia's use of a non-FDA-approved drug for the lethal injection — obtained in secrecy — violates her constitutional rights.

Gissendaner appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has halted executions that use a different drug. The high court had not yet weighed in when the drug problem was discovered.

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