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Debate Rages In Delaware Ahead Of Next Scheduled Execution

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(Robert Gattis)

(Robert Gattis)

By Ben Simmoneau

DOVER, Del. (CBS) – Delaware’s next execution is just days away, and a debate is now raging about whether the confessed killer should be granted clemency.

Robert Gattis told the Delaware Board of Pardons last week that he killed Shirley Slay in 1990, shooting her point blank between the eyes. But he says he still should not be on Delaware’s death row.

“There’s nothing I can say or do to change any of that, but I can help somebody else,” he said. “I’ve tried. I’ve tried that everyday.”

Gattis’ lawyers argued he should be granted clemency because he was severely sexually abused as a child, which led him to do what he did to Slay. The original jury never heard all the details of Gattis’ childhood, which were corroborated at the hearing by his sister Wanda Lee.

Their pleas worked. Over the weekend, the Board of Pardons announced it voted 4-1 to recommend Gattis’ sentence be changed to life in prison. The board’s statement referenced the abuse and the fact that the original jury did not unanimously support the death penalty. It voted 10-2 to impose it.

Delaware State Auditor Tom Wagner was the only board member to vote against recommending clemency for Gattis.

“Violence of the past is really not an excuse for violence in the future,” Wagner told Eyewitness News. “The point of the matter is he brutally assassinated his former girlfriend.”

Wagner said Gattis’ confession came too late.

“You want to see true, absolute remorse and being totally honest is a part of that,” he said. “For me, he was duly convicted of the law of the state. It was a heinous crime, we know he’s guilty. He had all his legal appeals.”

The board’s vote is only a recommendation, and Gattis’ fate now lies with Delaware Governor Jack Markell. Gov. Markell can either commute the sentence to life in prison, or allow Gattis to be executed as scheduled on Friday.

“I obviously take this responsibility very seriously, and I will continue my reflection, my contemplation,” the Governor said on Monday. “I expect to announce a decision fairly shortly.”

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