top of page

Gaile Owens Has Death Sentence Commuted

Fabulous news! On July 14, Gaile Owens, who was scheduled to be executed on September 28, 2010, had her death sentence commuted by Governor Bredesen of Tennessee. Not only does this decision save her life, it makes her eligible for parole as early as 2011.

Gaile Owens experienced decades of abuse —  first by her husband and then by a criminal legal system that failed her at every

Gaile Owens

AP Photo

turn. The National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women is extraordinarily grateful to Governor Bredesen for intervening to stop this execution and to prevent what would have been an extreme travesty of justice. The Governor's decision was the right and just thing to do.

The National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women has been working on behalf of Gaile Owens since the summer of 2009 when her attorneys contacted our office. It was clear from the beginning that we needed to do what we could to stop Gaile Owens from being executed. And we have been working hard since that time, fearing the worst and always hoping for the best. It's truly an understatement to say that all of us at the National Clearinghouse are thrilled with this great news; we are moved beyond words.

There were many people who worked very hard on Gaile Owens' behalf and we are thankful to each and every one one of you. The collective action of a group of people committed to justice is a very powerful thing. We believe it was this powerful collective energy that helped to create this wonderful result in Gaile Owens' case.

Thank you to those of you who signed the petition in support of Gaile and/or got your organization to sign on in support of Gaile. Thank you to each of you who forwarded our many emails on to your friends, family, and colleagues and urged them to support Gaile Owens. Thank you to those of you who held Gaile in your heart, thoughts, and/or prayers. Thank you to each of you who supported those of us who were struggling to stay strong as Gaile's execution date drew closer. Last summer, the National Clearinghouse submitted an amicus brief to the United States Supreme Court in support of Gaile Owens' petition for writ of certiorari. Many thanks to our pro bono legal team of Elliot H. Sherker, Julissa Rodriguez, Kerri L. McNulty (all of the Greenberg Traurig law firm in Miami), Karen Gottlieb (in private practice in Miami) and Peter Goldberger (long term National Advisor to the National Clearinghouse and in private practice in Ardmore, PA).

In February, when we were asked by Gaile's defense team to submit an amicus-like brief to the Tennessee Supreme Court supporting Gaile's brief requesting that they issue a certificate of commutation (something they have never done), the Tennessee Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence joined us in this brief without hesitation and offered to help in any way they could. Many thanks to Kathy Walsh, Executive Director, and all her coworkers for all their work on behalf of Gaile.

Gaile Owens's defense team particularly Kelley Henry and Gretchen Swift worked tirelessly to strategize about the most effective ways of informing the Governor about the many injustices in Gaile's case and positively influencing him to make the right decision. We know they were working extraordinarily hard both behind the scenes and in public to do whatever they could for Gaile. We are thrilled by the results of their hard work.

Special thanks to Stacy Rector, Executive Director of Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, Diann Rust-Tierney, Executive Director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, and Brad MacLean, Assistant Post-Conviction Defender, for their support and advice.

We know that many others worked very hard on Gaile's behalf. The staff of the National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women thank each and every one of you.

For more information go to

The Governor's Statement on his decision to commute Gaile Owens's sentence can be found at

bottom of page