VOL. 125 | NO. 136 | Thursday, July 15, 2010
Bredesen Commutes Bartlett Woman’s Death Sentence
By Bill Dries
Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen has commuted the death sentence of Gaile Owens in a Bartlett murder-for-hire case.
Owens was scheduled for execution Sept. 28 for the 1985 beating death of her husband, Ron Owens at their home.
Bredesen announced Wednesday morning that after reviewing a clemency petition from Owens he decided to commute her sentence to life in prison. Owens, through her attorneys, filed for clemency a year ago. The Tennessee Supreme Court recently set her execution date.
In the commutation, Bredesen said it was “an extraordinary death penalty case in which the defendant admitted her involvement in the murder of her husband and attempted to accept the district attorney’s conditional offer of life imprisonment.”
But her codefendant, Sidney Porterfield, didn’t take the plea deal. Porterfield was the man Owens hired to beat her husband to death. He is also on death row. Both were convicted of first degree murder.
Owens and Porterfield were tried together despite attempts by her attorneys to have separate trials.
Bredesen also said the case “raises unresolved allegations of domestic violence and emotional abuse that, while inconclusive, raise the possibility that the defendant suffered from the form of post-traumatic stress disorder then known as battered woman syndrome.”
During the trial, prosecutors contended Owens found Porterfield and carried out the plot because she and her husband had quarreled over her spending and his attempts to control her use of credit cards. Owens left the house with her children knowing that Porterfield was coming to kill him.
Shelby County District Attorney General Bill Gibbons, who was not the county’s chief prosecutor at the time, acknowledged in a written statement that the commutation is a power the governor has.
“I respect the fact that it is his decision based up his review of the circumstances,” Gibbons wrote.
Bredesen acted weeks after the Tennessee Conference of the United Methodist Church passed a resolution calling for the commutation of Owens’ sentence.