Death Sentences Commuted

One of the inmates whose death sentence was commuted is George Woldt. He was sentenced to death by a three judge panel in September of 2000 after being convicted of the 1997 kidnapping, rape and murder of 22 year old Jacine Gielinski.

The ruling stemmed from a 1995 law which said three judge panels determine if the death penalty is appropriate, after a jury decides if whether aggravating factors were present in the case.

But, in June of 2002, the Supreme Court ruled death sentences by three judge panels unconstitutional, saying that juries, not judges should base death penalty rulings on factual findings.

Governor Owens says Woldt has been given a second chance at life that wasn't offered to his victim. District Attorney Jeanne Smith agreed with Owens, and is also against the decision. Smith says her office is taking the matter up with the Attorney General's Office, and she may decide to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

Jacine's mom and step father say they would prefer the death penalty, but, they're okay with the Court's decision. However, Jacine's former boyfriend calls the new sentence ridiculous. He says he doesn't understand why Woldt should be allowed to live.