TRAVIS LOLLER, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A woman who spent 26 years on death row and came within two months of being executed was freed Friday from a Tennessee prison.
Gaile Owens, 58, of Memphis 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 and she won parole last week.
Supporters had urged her release, claiming she 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 to hug one of those sons, Stephen Owens, who is now grown and has children of his own.
Owens issued a written statement and then immediately left the prison.
"I'm looking forward to leading a quiet, private but productive life," the statement said. She said she wanted to get to know her son and the grandchildren born while she was in prison.
Her son said he was looking forward to spending the rest of the day with his mother.
Owens' sentence was commuted to life in prison in July 2010 by former Gov. Phil Bredesen. He acknowledged the abuse claims of her supporters but gave a different reason for his decision to spare her life. Bredesen 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 and she was eligible to be released now because of good conduct.