US woman executed in Georgia despite appeal from the Pope: Official

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States state of Georgia executed its first woman in 70 years early on Wednesday (Sept 30), despite an appeal for clemency by Pope Francis.

Kelly Gissendaner, 47, made a statement and requested a prayer before she was put to death by lethal injection after a flurry of last minute appeals.

"At 12.21am the court-ordered execution of Kelly Gissendaner was carried out in accordance with state law," said Ms Gwendolyn Hogan, a spokesman for the Georgia Department of Corrections.

An undated handout picture provided by the Georgia Department of Corrections on Sept 20, 2015, shows inmate Kelly Gissendaner in Georgia, USA. PHOTO: EPA 

She was the first woman to be executed in the southern state since 1945, and the 16th nationwide since the Supreme Court re-established the death penalty in 1976.

Gissendaner was sentenced to death after being found guilty of conspiring to murder her husband in 1997.

Her execution initially was scheduled for 7pm on Tuesday, but was delayed as her lawyers sought an 11th-hour reprieve in filings before a federal court of appeals, the Georgia Supreme Court and the US Supreme Court, to no avail.

Pope Francis' personal representative sent a letter to Georgia's parole board on Tuesday making "an urgent appeal" to commute Gissendaner's sentence to "one that would better express both justice and mercy".

"Please be assured of my prayers as you consider this request by Pope Francis for what I believe would be a just act of clemency," the Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano wrote.