Don’t Kill Domestic Abuse Survivor Gaile Owens

From Death Penalty Focus

Gaile Owens, a 54-year-old woman and domestic abuse survivor from Tennessee, is scheduled to be executed on September 28.

Owens is seeking to have her death sentence changed to a sentence of life in prison and only Governor Phil Bredesen has the power to grant the request.

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 Owens. Owens’ supporters say her death sentence should be commuted to life because:

* Owens may be 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, Owens hired a man to kill him. The prosecutor’s office said Owens could plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence. This offer was made with the approval of her husband’s family. Owens accepted the plea. However, when Owens’ codefendant – the man she hired to kill her husband – refused to take the plea, the prosecutors withdrew the offer.

* Owens’ death sentence is excessive. A recent review of nine cases from Tennessee involving women who have killed or hired someone to kill their partners, shows that six have received probation or early parole and that two received life sentences with eligibility for parole. Only Owens has received death

* Owens was sentenced to death by a jury which never heard critical information about the physical, emotional, and sexual abuse she endured throughout her life, including from her husband. Owens was subjected to physical and sexual violence from a young age. Her husband was but one of the perpetrators of violence against her. When her trial attorneys asked for funds to hire an expert witness with experience in abuse and trauma to evaluate Owens, they were denied.

* The prosecutor withheld exculpatory evidence from the defense. To this date, at least one juror has come forward saying that if she had the information about Owens’ experiences of abuse, she would not have voted in favor of execution. In other words, the proper presentation of this evidence could have resulted in an entirely different verdict and sentence by the jury.