Former death row inmate Gaile Owens takes step toward freedom

Wednesday, former death row inmate Gaile Owens is one step closer to freedom, writes Tennessean reporter Brian Haas.  Owens told Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole board member, Pasty Bruce, that she bears “full responsibility” for the murder of her husband in 1985 and that she is deeply remorseful for the role she played in the murder.

Watch video of Owens’ parole hearing here.

“It is with immeasurable regret and remorse that I admit that I’m responsible for the death of my husband, Ron Owens. I ultimately put, was responsible for putting the wheels in motion that caused his death…I bear the full responsibility” said Owens.

Owen’s was joined at the Tennessee Prison for Women by a group of more than 50 supporters, among them Former Tennessean publisher and editor John Seigenthaler Sr., who for the past several years has spoken out on the injustice of her sentence, citing other cases in which women murdered their husbands and did not receive the death penalty.  Some of whom avoided prison altogether. “All these women now are on parole and she remains here,” Seigenthaler said. “I know her to be a person of intelligence, integrity, a person of courage, a person of talent who can make a real contribution to society if you grant her parole.”

Bruce said that her decision on Gaile Owens’ sentence was complicated, and she claimed to be troubled by the severity of the crime. Ultimately Bruce voted for Owen’s parole.

“I have decided that based on all of these things that I am going to vote to parole you today,” Bruce said “But again, hold on, that’s one vote. Remember, I’m still the only one person here. This is not a final vote, Ms. Owens; this is not a final vote.”

Gaile, her attorneys, and her friends have been working relentlessly to ensure Owen’s freedom and to prepare her for outside of prison. She has proved herself to be a model inmate, volunteering in many capacities at the prison, including mentoring younger inmates as they seek rehabilitation.

This is a woman whose case went through over 20 years of appeals and yet no court chose to remedy the troubling issues in her case, including the fact that the jury was never told about the domestic abuse she suffered, that she received ineffective legal representation at trial and that important evidence was withheld. Since her sentencing in 1985, she has endured 26 years of appeals with the Governor finally intervening just a few months before her execution to keep her alive.

Sadly, for every case like Gaile Owens’ there are a hundred others who may never get the attention her case garnered. How many more years and resources do we want to expend maintaining a system as flawed as this one?

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