Mercy for Gaile Owens
  • Petitioned Gov. Phil Bredesen

This petition was delivered to:

Tennessee
Gov. Phil Bredesen

Mercy for Gaile Owens

    1. Petition by

      ACTION COMMITTEE FOR WOMEN IN PRISON

  1.  
  2.   
July 2010

Victory

After nearly 3,000 Change.org members sent letters to Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, the Governor commuted death row prisoner Gaile Owens' sentence to life. Gaile had been convicted in 1986 of arranging to kill her abusive husband and her harsh sentence failure to take into consideration the psychological trauma involved in her attempt to free herself from a tormenter. Gaile will also be eligible for parole.

Wonderful news! Gaile Owens will not be executed and she will even be eligible for parole in 2012. Thank you to everyone who supported her...you did this! Now lets get her out on parole.Governor commutes sentence of Gaile Owens | tennessean.com | The Tennesseanwww.tennessean.comUPDATED: 11:25pm: Gov. Phil Bredesen said Wednesday that he had commuted the death sentence of Gaile W. Owens to life in prison.

 

Dear friends:

The state of Tennessee is scheduled to execute Gaile Owens on September 28th, unless we can convince Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen to commute her death sentence to life in prison. 

Gaile Owens is in prison for hiring a man to kill her abusive husband in 1985.  She was offered a plea to life in prison -- and she accepted that plea -- but the D.A. rescinded their offer when her co-defendant refused to accept the plea.   The attorneys working on her case believe that no other prisoner on death row in the U.S. has received a death sentence after accepting the offer of a guilty plea in exchange for alife sentence.

Below and attached is more information about Ms. Owens' case (my apologies in advance if the formatting of the following message is weird).  The organization where I work, the National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women, has been working with Ms. Owens’ attorneys since last summer to block her execution. 

Gaile Owens needs more support – and needs it now.   At a minimum, please sign the petition AND forward this message to all of your coworkers, colleagues, friends, and family.  Time is short.  We need to act NOW.  THANKS IN ADVANCE.

We believe that letters sent via US mail will be the most persuasive Please considersending a letter to the Governor and to his legal counsel.  His address is: 

The Honorable Phil Bredesen 
Governor’s Office
Tennessee State Capitol 
Nashville, TN 37243-0001

If you can’t send a letter via US mail, please send a message to the Governor l via e-mail.  His e-mail addresses are: Phil.Bredesen@tn.gov .

Consider calling the Governor’s office, writing a letter to the editor, submitting an editorial, and/or joining as a Friend of Gaile Owens on Facebook.  For more information about these ideas, see the Friends of Gaile website under the “Learn More” tab (about halfway down the page). http://www.friendsofgaile.com/about.htm 

Why Gaile Owens should have her sentence commuted:

There are many compelling reasons to commute Gaile Owens’ sentence.  We need your help to convince Governor Bredesen that commuting her sentence is the correct – and just – action for him to take.

Ms. Owens is the only prisoner in Tennessee to receive a death sentence after accepting a prosecutor’s offer of a plea agreement for life in prison.  In 1985, after years of sexual abuse and severe humiliation by her husband, Ms. Owens hired a man to kill him.  The prosecutor’s office offered that Ms. Owens could plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence.  This offer was made with the approval of her husband’s family.  Remorseful and concerned about putting her children through the trauma and hardship of a trial, she accepted the plea.  But, when Ms. Owens’ codefendant – the man she hired to kill her husband – refused to take the plea, the prosecutors withdrew the offer.  We believe Gaile Owens is the only prisoner in the entire United States in this unimaginable and untenable situation.  No other prisoner has received a death sentence after accepting the offer of a guilty plea in exchange for a life sentence.

Ms. Owens’ death sentence is clearly excessive. A recent review of 9 cases from Tennessee that involve women who have killed or hired someone to kill their partners, shows that 6 have received probation or early parole and that two receivedlife sentenceswith eligibility for parole. Only Ms. Owens has received death. As you may recall,Mary Winkler, another woman from Tennessee, who shot and killed her minister husband, ended up serving a total of 7monthsand subsequently was able to get full custody of her children. Ms. Owens, a remorseful woman with a stellar prison record, should not be put to death.

Ms. Owens received a sentence of death by a jury that never heard critical information about the physical, emotional, and sexual abuse she endured throughout her life, including from her husband.   Ms Owens was subjected to physical and sexual violence from a young age.  Her husband was but one of the perpetrators of violence against her.  His unspeakable acts of sexual violence and humiliation were part of the story of Gaile Owens’ life, the story the jury never heard.  When her trial attorneys asked for funds to hire an expert witness with experience in abuse and trauma to evaluate Ms. Owens, they were denied.  She was instead given a competency/insanity evaluation by a local mental health clinic.  Unprepared and ill-equipped, her attorneys proceeded to try her case without the essential evidence of her history of abuse.

As if these failings weren’t damaging enough, it was discovered that the prosecutor withheld exculpatory evidence from the defense.  To this date, at least one juror has come forward saying that if she had had the information about Ms. Owens’ experiences of abuse, she would not have voted in favor of execution.  In other words, the proper presentation of this evidence could have saved Gaile Owens’ life.

The legal system clearly failed Ms. Owens.At each step of the legal process, Ms. Owens’ efforts to find justice were thwarted. Gaile Owens death sentence should be commuted. 

For additional information about Ms. Owens’ case, visit http://www.tennesseedeathpenalty.org/

The National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women (NCDBW) and the Tennessee Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence (TCADSV) have been working together to support Ms. Owens for many months.  Last summer, the National Clearinghouse submitted an amicus brief to the US Supreme Court in support of Ms. Owens’ Petition for Certiorari (asking the Supreme Court to hear Ms. Owens’ case).  The Supreme Court refused to hear her case.  In January, NCDBW and TCADSV submitted an amicus to theTennessee Supreme Court seeking a certificate of commutation, which was denied at the end of April.  We turn to you now – our colleagues, coworkers, friends and family – to urge you to act to save Gaile Owens’ life.

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