NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A U.S. woman who spent 26 years on death row and came within two months of being executed was freed Friday from prison.
Gaile Owens, 58, was released Friday and greeted by a small group of supporters outside Tennessee's Prison for Women.
She was sentenced to die for hiring a stranger to kill her husband in 1985, but her death sentence was commuted to life in prison last year. She won parole last week.
Supporters had claimed Owens was a battered wife who didn't use that defense because she didn't want her young sons to know about the physical and sexual abuse.
The first thing she did on leaving the prison was hug one of those sons, Stephen Owens, who is now grown and has children of his own.
"I'm looking forward to leading a quiet, private but productive life," Gaile Owens said in a written statement just before leaving the prison.
Stephen Owens said he was looking forward to spending the rest of the day with his mother.
Tennessee is one of 34 states that have the death penalty, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, a Washington-based nonprofit.
When he commuted her sentence to life in prison last year, former Gov. Phil Bredesen acknowledged the abuse claims but gave a different reason for his decision to spare her life. He said prosecutors had agreed not to seek the death penalty if Owens pleaded guilty but then put her on trial when her co-defendant wouldn't accept the plea bargain.
At the time she was imprisoned, a life sentence meant serving 30 years. She was eligible to be released now because of good conduct.
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