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Save Gaile Owens from Tennessee execution
The Tennessee Supreme Court announced on April 19, that it has denied the commutation request, filed on Friday, Feb. 5, on behalf of Gaile Owens. Governor Phil Bredesen is now the only person who can decide to commute Gaile's sentence of the death penalty to life in prison. It is important now more than ever to show your support for Gaile.

Please make your voice heard by calling or writing Governor Phil Bredesen. Visit the learn more section for more information about what you can do to show your support.

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Gaile Owens is ... A mother. A grandmother. A friend.
Creating a meaningful life for herself and others.
A valued adviser. A model prisoner.
Gaile is a battered woman on death row.
And she needs our support.

Gaile Owens supporters begin pitch to get her off Tennessee's death row
Son asks Bredesen for mercy as Bartlett woman faces death

By Richard Locker April 20, 2010

NASHVILLE Supporters of Gaile Owens of Bartlett, who faces execution Sept. 28 for the contract murder of her husband, focused their hopes on Gov. Phil Bredesen on Tuesday with a request to commute her death sentence to life in prison or release.

Her son spoke publicly for the first time in a news conference held by his mother's attorneys and supporters. "My statement today is a public plea to Governor Bredesen to spare my mother's life," said Stephen Owens, 37, of Franklin, who visited her last year for the first time in more than 20 years.

"I looked my mother in the eyes and told her I forgive her. Mom is extremely remorseful and regretful. She has spent the past 25 years suffering her consequences. She has also spent the past 25 years reforming her life."

The Tennessee Supreme Court on Monday denied Gaile Owens' request to vacate her Shelby County death sentence and modify it to life in prison, saying that it lacked the authority to do so. The court scheduled her execution for 10 p.m. Sept. 28.

But the justices' order noted that "The governor is not constrained by the same evidentiary limitations that guide our decisions," and that "accordingly, our decision to decline to issue a certificate of commutation does not foreclose or affect the governor's exercise of his clemency power" under the Tennessee Constitution.

Owens was convicted of hiring Sydney Porterfield to kill her husband, Ronald Owens, who was beaten to death with a tire iron in their Bartlett home in 1985.

The news conference at the law office of high-profile Nashville attorney George Barrett is part of a combined legal and public relations campaign aimed at saving Owens' life. Nashville singer-songwriter Marshall Chapman and others who have befriended Owens on weekly volunteer visits at the Tennessee Prison for Women were present, along with Asst. Federal Public Defender Kelley Henry and the defendant's son. Husband-and-wife volunteers Gene and Pat Williams have created a Web site,, to help build support for a gubernatorial commutation.

"We're here for two reasons. One, the unfairness of the treatment of Ms. Owens by the judicial system in this state, and two, the unfairness of the sentence given to her," Barrett said.

"There have been 26 women tried and convicted in Tennessee for either killing or arranging the killing of their spouse and not a single one of them until Gaile Owens received the death penalty. She agreed to plead guilty prior to her trial in Memphis and was forbidden from doing so by a quirk in the judicial system because her co-defendant, Mr. Porterfield, would not plead guilty. Mr. Porterfield is now on death row claiming mental retardation since birth.

"Secondly we're here because of proportionality of the sentence given to her," Barrett continued. "She's a battered woman."

Gaile Owens' son asks Bredesen to spare death row inmate's life

Stephen Owens has forgiven his mother, Gaile K. Owens. George Barrett, right, is her attorney. (DIPTI VAIDYA / THE TENNESSEAN)
Stephen Owens says she is remorseful

By Clay Carey THE TENNESSEAN April 21, 2010

Stephen Owens walked into the Tennessee Prison for Women last year and saw his mother for the first time in more than two decades.

She had spent almost 25 years behind bars, awaiting execution for the murder of her husband, Ronald Owens. She had killed his father, but Stephen Owens still found the strength to tell her, "I forgive you.''

Tuesday, the 37-year-old Franklin man made a public plea for Gov. Phil Bredesen to do the same by commuting Gaile K. Owens' death sentence.

"Mom is extremely remorseful and regretful. She has spent the past 25 years suffering her consequences. She has also spent the past 25 years reforming her life," Stephen Owens said, reading from a prepared statement at the offices of his mother's attorneys.

Owens, 57, is scheduled to be executed on Sept. 28 for hiring another man, Sidney Porterfield, to kill her husband in Shelby County in 1985. Her attorneys and supporters have said she was unfairly sentenced to death because the jury never knew she was a battered woman looking for a way to escape her abusive marriage. Owens could not bring herself to tell jurors about the abuse because she wanted to protect her children from the details, her defenders have said.

Tennessee's Supreme Court ruled Monday that it could not commute her sentence, and the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear her case.

The state Supreme Court said it could intervene only under extraordinary, extenuating circumstances, and the new evidence did not meet that test. The court made it clear that the governor has more leeway.

"I'm confident after the legislature adjourns he'll turn his attention to this issue,'' said Owens' attorney George Barrett. "I think he'll do what he thinks is the right thing."

Lydia Lenker, a spokeswoman for the governor, said Bredesen had received Owens' clemency petition.

"As he does in each of these situations, the Governor is reviewing the document but hasn't made a decision on the matter," she said.

Owens would be the first woman executed in Tennessee since 1820.

Woman on TN death row awaits execution date from court

Gaile Owens
By Kate Howard THE TENNESSEAN December 9, 2009

This column was originally published on 12/9/2009

The state attorney general's office has asked the Tennessee Supreme Court to set an execution date for one of the two women on death row.

Gaile Owens was convicted in 1986 of accessory before the fact of first-degree murder for having her husband killed in West Tennessee.

Ronald Owens was beaten to death; Sidney Porterfield was convicted of carrying out the slaying for Owens. Porterfield is also on death row.

Owens' appeals have been exhausted, and the U.S. Supreme Court denied her request for a re-hearing on Nov. 30. The state requested Tuesday that a date be set for her execution.

Owens, 57, was the first woman sentenced to death under Tennessee's 1977 death penalty law.

Her appeal was denied 2-1 by a panel of the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals last year. Her attorneys had argued that she had ineffective representation, that the state didn't turn over key evidence and that the trial judge wouldn't let her tell the jury she wanted to plead guilty in return for a life sentence.

Another woman, Christa Pike, is on death fow for killing fellow Job Corps worker Colleen Slemmer in 1995.

There have been seven executions in Tennessee since 2000, the most recent was last week. Cecil C. Johnson Jr., was executed by lethal injection for the 1980 murders of three people during a robbery at a Nashville market.

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