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TN gov hopefuls silent on Bredesen commutation

NASHVILLE (AP) - Tennessee's gubernatorial candidates won't say publicly whether they disagree with Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen's decision to commute the death sentence of a woman convicted of paying a man to kill her husband.

But their answers to a question about the death penalty at a debate earlier in the week indicate they would not have made the same choice on the sentence of Gaile Owens, who was scheduled to be executed in September.

The Republican candidates to succeed term-limited Bredesen are Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp and state Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey. Jackson businessman Mike McWherter is the lone Democrat running.

Bredesen said Owens didn't deserve the death penalty for the 1985 murder because she had agreed to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence, but that bargain was withdrawn because her co-defendant refused to plead guilty too.

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