DELAWARE (USA): GOVERNOR COMMUTES DEATH SENTENCE TO LIFE IN PRISON
January 17, 2012: Gov. Jack Markell, 51, white, Democratic, today announced he is sparing the life of Robert Gattis, 49, black, who was scheduled to die by lethal injection early Friday morning.
It is the 1st time in modern memory, and perhaps the 1st time ever, that a Delaware governor has commuted a death sentence.
Markell's action means the execution will now be called off and Gattis - who was convicted and sentenced to death for the May 1990 murder of his one-time girlfriend Shirley Slay - will spend the rest of his life in prison.
Markell cited the "unusual and perhaps historic" recommendation of the Delaware Board of Pardons, in a 4-1 vote, to commute Gattisâ sentence.
"I realize my decision may cause pain to the family and friends of Shirley Slay. For that, I deeply apologize." Markell said in a statement. "This commutation in no way relieves Mr. Gattis of his moral or legal guilt, and I am mindful of the fact that an innocent victim lost her life on the night of May 9, 1990," Markell said, adding the decision to spare Gattis life was "among the most difficult I have had to make in all my years in public service." (Source: Delawareonline, ACLU Blog, New York Times, 17/01/2012)