Markell Spares Gattis the Death Penalty

By Sean O'Sullivan
News Journal
January 17, 2012|topnews|text|Home

Robert A. Gattis is shown at his clemency hearing last week.

Shirley Slay was killed in May 1990 by her one-time boyfriend Robert A. Gattis

[with video]

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell today announced he is sparing the life of condemned killer Robert A. Gattis, who was scheduled to die by lethal injection early Friday morning.

It is the first time in modern memory, and perhaps the first time ever, that a Delaware governor has commuted a death sentence.

Markell's action means the execution will now be called off and the 49-year-old 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 Gattis' 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.

However, as a condition of the commutation, Markell said Gattis must agree to surrender all future legal appeals and instead spend the rest of his natural life in prison. This was a condition recommended by the Pardons Board.

Attorneys for Gattis have said repeatedly that Gattis will agree to those terms and that he furthermore recognizes that he should spend the rest of his life in prison for taking the life of Slay.

"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."



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