BUTTS COUNTY, Ga. - A former fellow inmate of Kelly Gissendaner's, the woman who is on death row for planning the murder of her husband in 1997, says that Kelly saved her life and does not deserve to die. She says that Kelly took one life, but saved many more.
Nikki Roberts was sentenced to 20 years for armed robbery. She served 10 years in prison and is now on probation for another 10 years. When she first got to prison, she used a razor blade to slit her wrists. Roberts says she wanted to die and saw nothing but darkness. She says Gissendaner heard her cries.
“I was screaming and making a lot of noise. I wanted to die. I was angry I was still alive. Surely I thought I did the job,” said Roberts.
But when she was put in a cell next to Gissendaner, she says Gissendaner spoke life to her through a prison vent.
“You don’t hear hope, but Kelly gave me hope. ‘Don’t give up. Don’t give up your power’ and making me realize that I really was somebody. ‘Don't wish death on yourself! How dare you give up on yourself,’” said Roberts.
Gissendaner’s execution has been delayed twice, but the family of the victim, Doug Gissendaner, says that they will not stop until he receives justice. They sent Channel 2 Action News this statement:
“Doug is a true victim of this premeditated and heinous crime. We, along with our friends and supporters and our faith, will continue fighting for Doug until he gets the justice he deserves no matter long it takes.”
Thousands of people are pushing for Gissendaner’s sentence to be changed to life in prison without parole.
The Rev. Richard Tolcher, a Catholic deacon who counsels inmates on death row and has witnessed several executions, says that the death penalty does nothing but take away human dignity.
“Every human has dignity, and it’s an inviolable right and it doesn’t go away simply because you are accused or convicted of murder,” said Tolcher.
Tolcher is also the director of the prison and jail ministry for the Archdiocese of Atlanta. He says that violence is not the antidote to stop violence.
“Jesus talked about love, compassion and mercy. He never talked about revenge-- eye for an eye; tooth for a tooth. Matthew 5 said, ‘You have heard that but I tell you love your enemies.’ Jesus reversed all of that. You never see Jesus talking about vengeance or revenge or even up the score. I don’t think you can fight violence with violence,” said Tolcher.
Gissendaner’s execution warrant expired on Wednesday, but the court has not yet issued a new warrant.