February 28, 2010
Gov. Phil Bredesen holds the life of a battered
woman in his hands. The state will execute Gaile
Kirksey Owens, 57, by lethal injection unless the
governor commutes her sentence to life in prison.
Gaile is a victim of severe domestic violence who
was arrested in 1985, and later convicted, for hiring
a man to kill her abusive husband, Ronald Owens.
After exhausting her appeals, her lawyer and two
public defenders have filed a formal plea asking
Gov. Bredesen to commute her sentence to life in
Though she was diagnosed with battered woman’s
syndrome, Gaile’s jurors never heard about the
physical, emotional and sexual abuse she endured
from her husband.
Among nine comparable cases over the past 25
years: two defendants are serving life sentences and
six have received probation or early parole, while
only Gaile is facing death. Unless Gov. Bredesen
commutes Gaile’s sentence, she will be the first
woman executed by the state since 1820.
Not only were there very few, if any, resources for a
battered woman in the early ’80s, but a woman who
has suffered severe and consistent abuse is not in a
competent state of mind. Gov. Phil Bredesen should
commute Gaile Owens’ sentence to life in prison and
save the state from executing a battered woman.