Please spread this far and wide!
From: Sue Osthoff [mailto:sueo@NCDBW.org]
Below please find an Action Alert from Sue Osthoff, Director of the National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women, and Kathy England Walsh, Executive Director of the Tennessee Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, who have been working to save Gaile Owens’ life since last summer. 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. THANK YOU IN ADVANCE.
Abused woman set to be executed. Please act now to stop this horrific injustice.
Gaile Owens, a 54-year-old woman from Tennessee, whose life was filled with abuse, and whose legal case has been dominated by an appalling series of grave injustices, is scheduled to be executed on September 28. Please act now to stop this execution. Ms. Owens is seeking to have her death sentence commuted to a sentence of life in prison and only Governor Bredesen has the power to do this. We need your help in urging Governor Bredesen to commute Gaile Owens’ sentence from death to life in prison.
What we want you to do:
· Sign the on-line petition in support of clemency for Ms. Owens. As of May 2, the petition had almost 5,000 signatures. We want to double that amount and get over 10,000 signatures. We can only do this with your help. We need you to sign the petition now. It will take less than a minute of your time. Go to the Friends of Gaile website and sign the petition at: http://www.friendsofgaile.com/phpPETITION/index.php
· Send a letter to Governor Bredesen urging them to spare Gaile Owens’ life by commuting her sentence.
o We believe that letters sent via US mail will be the most persuasive. Please consider sending a letter to the Governor and to his legal counsel. His address is:
The Honorable Phil Bredesen
Tennessee State Capitol
Nashville, TN 37243-0001
o 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 received life sentences with 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 7 months and 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 the Tennessee 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.
If you have any questions or want any additional information, feel free to contact NCDBW at 215/351-0010 or TCADSV at 615/386-9406. Thank you in advance for your critical help.
Kathy England Walsh
DirectorExecutive DirectorNational Clearinghouse for the Tennessee Coalition Against Defense of Battered Women Domestic and Sexual Violence. Nashville, TN
National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women 125 S. 9th Street, Suite 302Philadelphia, PA 19107
tel: 215/351-0010 or 800/903-0111, ext. 3