Attorneys urge high court to commute Gaile Owens' sentence

NASHVILLE, TN (WMC-TV) - Attorneys for death row inmate Gaile Owens have asked the Tennessee Supreme Court to commute her sentence to life in prison.

According to a news release from the federal Office of the Public Defender in Nashville, defense attorneys Gretchen Swift and Kelley Henry filed the formal request on Friday. It asks the court to deny the attorney general's motion to set an execution date for the 57-year-old Owens.

In 1986, Owens was convicted in Shelby County of hiring someone to kill her husband the previous year.

The release says Owens was a battered woman who never testified in her own defense because she wanted to protect her young sons from the details of the sexual and emotional abuse she suffered.

A separate appeal for clemency is pending before Gov. Phil Bredesen.

Owens has exhausted her appeals and unless governor Phil Bredesen commutes her sentence, she could become the first woman executed in Tennessee since Eve Martin was hanged in 1820.

Domestic violence never came up in trial because Owens never testified.

Attorneys say she wanted to protect her two sons from the details of her volatile relationship.

Copyright 2010 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.  The AP contributed to this story.