Owens needed recommendations from four of the seven members of the Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole. She received the last of those today.
The first sign she might receive parole came at an emotional hearing Sept. 7 at the Tennessee Prison for Women, where Owens received the first "yes" vote from board member Patsy Bruce. Looking on was a crowd of supporters that included her grown son Stephen — who at age 11 discovered his father Ron Owens battered and bleeding in the family's suburban Memphis home.
Owens was convicted of hiring an accomplice, Sidney Porterfield, to murder her husband and has spent 25 years awaiting execution. But in recent years supporters have raised concerns that evidence which might have mitigated her death sentence — specifically, allegations of spousal abuse and the possibility of battered-woman syndrome — was never heard at trial. These issues are covered at length in a two-part Scene cover story from April 2010 ("No Angel, No Devil," April 22 & 29).
Through his attorney, Stephen Owens released the following statement minutes ago:
This is a beautiful day for our family. I am grateful to the parole board for granting parole to my mother, Gaile Owens, after 26 years in prison. One year ago today was the date that Mom was to be executed had Gov. Phil Bredesen not commuted her sentence. I will always be grateful to Gov. Bredesen, to my mother's legal team, and to the thousands of friends and strangers who have rallied behind my mom and our family.