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article imageWoman who had been on death row granted parole

By Lynn Curwin     Sep 29, 2011 in Crime
A 58-year-old Tennessee woman who had been scheduled for execution a year ago has been granted parole, after 27 years in prison.
Former Gov. Phil Bredesen commuted Gaile Owens' death sentence to life in prison in July 2010, and the Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole now says she will probably be released some time during the next three weeks.
"We don't have a date for certain," Melissa McDonald, spokeswoman for the board, told Reuters. "She has to get her release plan approved."
Owens was convicted of arranging to have her husband, Ron, killed. Sidney Porterfield, who is now 68 and on death row, accepted the job and struck the man 21 times with a tire iron. Stephen Owens, who was 11 at the time, found his father's body in their home.
Gaile Owens and her lawyers later said that Owens had suffered years of abuse by her husband, but she did not take the stand and talk about that during her trial because she didn't want her sons to hear the details.
"This is a beautiful day for our family," Nashville Scene reported that Stephen Owens said in a statement. "I am grateful to the parole board for granting parole to my mother, Gaile Owens, after 26 years in prison. One year ago today was the date that Mom was to be executed had Gov. Phil Bredesen not commuted her sentence. I will always be grateful to Gov. Bredesen, to my mother's legal team, and to the thousands of friends and strangers who have rallied behind my mom and our family."
Four members of the parole board voted to parole Owens, while two were against it.
"On this day, which was to be the anniversary of her execution, Gaile has been given the gift of freedom," The Tennessean quoted her lawyer, Kelley Henry, as saying. "We are thrilled for Gaile and her family and remain committed to helping her transition into the next chapter in her life as a private citizen, mother, grandmother, and friend."
An earlier story in the Nashville Scene reported that previous to her husband's murder Owens had been convicted of 35 counts of forgery for stealing thousands of dollars from a doctor's office, where she worked as a receptionist.
The Friends of Gaile Owens website reports that thousands of people wrote to the governor and signed petitions to prevent her execution.
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