Karla Faye Tucker PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 25 February 2009 10:36

Karla Faye Tucker

Born: November 18, 1959, Houston, texas

Died: February 3, 1998 Huntsville, Texas

Age: 38

Cause of death: Lethal injection by Texan

Notable because: Born into troubled marriage, Karla learned at the age of ten during her parent divorce that she was the product of an extramarital affair. By age 12, she had turned to drugs and sex and at 14, dropped out of school to follow her mother Carolyn, a rock groupie, into prostitution and began traveling with the Allman Brothers Band, The Marshall Tucker Band, and the Eagles. Aged 23, on a drug bender, she went on a robbery with her biker boyfriend Danny Garrett in 1983 to the home of Jerry Dean. Garrett assaulted the man leaving him near death. His snapped neck was making too much noise for Karla's liking so she took up a pickaxe  to "stop him from making that noise".  With Dean now dead, Garrett left the room to load stolen parts in his truck, Tucker was once again left in the room and only then noticed a woman who had hidden under the bed covers against the wall. The woman, the very unlucky Deborah Thornton, had met Dean at a party earlier that afternoon. Upon discovering Thornton, Tucker grazed her shoulder with the pickaxe. Thornton and Tucker began to struggle, but Garrett returned and separated them. Tucker proceeded to hit Thornton repeatedly with the pickaxe and then embedded the axe in her heart. Tucker would later tell friends and testify that she experienced intense multiple orgasms with each blow of the pickaxe. In prison she found Jesus and became a born again Christian - leaving her jailors with the reassurance that 'She loved them.' Capital punishment supporters outside the prison cheered when Tucker was executed. A Gospel singer's rendition of "Amazing Grace" was shouted down by cries of "Kill the bitch!" from the pro-death penalty crowd that gathered outside of the prison. First woman to be executed in Texas  since the Civil war. The Governor who signed her death warrant, Killer George Bush the 2nd, would go on TV to demonstrate her final plea.  “Please,” Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation, “don’t kill me.”

 

Karla Faye Tucker was convicted of murder in Texas in 1984 and put to death fourteen years later. She was the first woman to be executed in the United States since 1984, and the first in Texas since 1863. Because of her gender and widely publicized conversion to Christianity, she inspired an unusually large national and international movement advocating the commutation of her sentence to life imprisonment, a movement which included a few foreign government officials.

Karla Tucker was born and raised in Houston, Texas, the youngest of three sisters. Her father Larry was a longshoreman on the Gulf of Mexico. The marriage of her parents was very troubled, and Tucker started smoking with her sisters when she was eight years old. At the age of 10, her parents divorced, and during the divorce proceedings, she learned that she had been the result of an extramarital affair. By age 12, she had turned to drugs and sex. When she was 14, she dropped out of school and followed her mother Carolyn, a rock groupie, into prostitution and began traveling with the Allman Brothers Band, The Marshall Tuckarla-tucker-lgker Band, and the Eagles. At age 16, she was married briefly to a mechanic named Stephen Griffith. In her early 20s, she began hanging out with bikers, and met a woman named Shawn Dean and her husband Jerry Lynn Dean, who introduced her to a man named Danny Garrett in 1981.

The murders

After having spent the weekend doing drugs with her boyfriend Danny Garrett and their friends, Tucker and Garrett entered Jerry Dean's home around 3am on Monday 14 June 1983 intending to steal Dean's motorcycle. James Leibrant, a friend, went with them to Dean's apartment complex. Leibrant reported that he went looking for Dean's El Camino while Tucker and Garrett entered the apartment with a set of keys that Tucker claimed Shawn Dean had lost and Tucker had found.

During the burglary, Tucker and Garrett entered Dean's bedroom, where Tucker sat on him. In an effort to protect himself, Dean grabbed Tucker above the elbows, whereupon Garrett intervened. Garrett struck Dean numerous times in the back of the head with a hammer he found on the floor. After hitting Dean, Garrett left the room to carry motorcycle parts out of the apartment. Tucker remained in the bedroom.

The blows Garrett had dealt Dean caused his head to become unhinged from his neck and his breathing passages to fill with fluid. He began making a "gurgling" sound characteristic of this type of injury. Tucker wanted to "stop him from making that noise" and attacked him with a pickaxe. Garrett then re-entered the room and dealt Dean a final blow in the chest.

Garrett left the bedroom again so as to continue loading Dean's motorcycle parts into his Ranchero. Tucker was once again left in the room and only then noticed a woman who had hidden under the bed covers against the wall. The woman, Deborah Thornton, had met Dean at a party earlier that afternoon. Upon discovering Thornton, Tucker grazed her shoulder with the pickaxe. Thornton and Tucker began to struggle, but Garrett returned and separated them. Tucker proceeded to hit Thornton repeatedly with the pickaxe and then embedded the axe in her heart. Tucker would later tell friends and testify that she experienced intense multiple orgasms with each blow of the pickaxe.

The next morning, a co-worker of Dean's who had been waiting for a ride entered the apartment and discovered the victims' bodies. Investigation led to the arrests of Tucker and Garrett.

Trial

In September 1983, Tucker and Garrett were indicted and tried separately for the murders. Tucker entered a plea of not guilty and was jailed awaiting trial. Soon after being imprisoned, Tucker took a Bible from the prison ministry program and read it in her cell. She later recalled, "I didn't know what I was reading. Before I knew it, I was in the middle of my cell floor on my knees. I was just asking God to forgive me." Tucker became a Christian in October 1983. She later married her prison minister, the Reverend Dana Lane Brown, and held her Christian wedding ceremony inside the prison.

Mountain View Unit, where Tucker was held

Though the death penalty was hardly ever sought for female defendants, Tucker, along with Garrett, was sentenced to death in late 1984. (Garrett died in prison of liver disease in 1993.) She shared her Death Row cell at the Mountain View Unit with her friend Pam Perillo, whose own sentence was eventually commuted to life in prison.

Between 1984 and 1992, requests for a retrial and appeals were denied, but on June 22, Tucker requested that her life be spared on the basis that she was under the influence of drugs at the time of the murders, she would not have committed the murders had she not taken drugs and she was now a reformed person. Her plea drew support from abroad and also from some leaders of American conservatism. Among those who appealed to the State of Texas on her behalf were Bacre Waly Ndiaye, the United Nations commissioner on summary and arbitrary executions; the World Council of Churches; Pope John Paul II; Italian Pkarla-7771rime Minister Romano Prodi; the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich; televangelist Pat Robertson; and Ronald Carlson, the brother of Tucker's murder victim Debbie Thornton. The warden of Texas's Huntsville prison testified that she was a model prisoner and that, after 14 years on death row, she likely had been reformed. The board turned her down on 28 January 1998.

 

 

 

While on death row, Karla Faye Tucker was incarcerated in the Mountain View Unit in Gatesville, Texas. She became Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) Death Row #777.

Huntsville Unit, the site of Texas' execution chamber

On February 2, 1998, state authorities took Tucker from the unit in Gatesville and flew her on a TDCJ aircraft, transporting her to the Huntsville Unit in Huntsville. Karla Faye Tucker's last meal request consisted of a banana, a peach, and a garden salad with ranch dressing.

She selected four people to watch her die which included her sister Kari Weeks, her spouse Dana Brown, her close friend Jackie Oncken, and Ronald Carlson. At one time Ronald Carlson had supported the execution but later after a religious conversion decided that he opposed all executions. The witnesses for the victims included Thornton's husband Richard, Thornton's only child William Joseph Davis and Thornton's stepdaughter Katie. Tucker's execution was also witnessed by members of TDCJ, Warden Bagget, and various representatives of the media. Her last words were:

Yes sir, I would like to say to all of you — the Thornton family and Jerry Dean’s family — that I am so sorry. I hope God will give you peace with this. (She looked at her husband) Baby, I love you. (She looked at Ronald Carlson) Ron, give Peggy a hug for me. (She looked at all present weeping and smiling) Everybody has been so good to me. I love all of you very much. I am going to be face to face with Jesus now. Warden Baggett, thank all of you so much. You have been so good to me. I love all of you very much. I will see you all when you get there. I will wait for you.

She was executed by lethal injection on February 3, 1998. As the lethal chemicals were being administered she was praising Jesus Christ. Eight minutes after receiving injection, she was pronounced dead at 6:45pm CST. She was the first woman executed in the State of Texas in 135 years.

She is buried at Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery in Houston.

In the year following her execution, conservative commentator Tucker Carlson questioned Governor George W. Bush about how the Board of Pardons and Parole had arrived at the determination on her clemency plea. Carlson alleged that Bush, alluding to a televised interview which Karla Faye Tucker had given to talk show host Larry King, smirked and spoke mockingly about her. Bush himself later denied this. A full length movie was released in 2004 about the life of Tucker entitled Forevermore starring actress Karen Jezek.

Tucker gained international attention because she would be the first woman to be executed in Texas since the Civil War and the first in the United States since 1984. Italian President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro noted in a public speech that capital punishment supporters outside a Texas prison had cheered when Tucker was executed. "And we are on the threshold of 2,000 years of Christ!" he exclaimed. In England, Bishop Richard Harries of the Diocese of Oxford reported that a Gospel singer's rendition of "Amazing Grace" was shouted down by cries of "Kill the bitch!" from the pro-death penalty crowd that gathered outside of the prison.

Depictions

Music

  • The Tomorrowpeople (1999). "America's Deathrow Sweetheart" (Gibson/Powerchurch) on the album Marijuana Beach [Olivia Records]

  • Indigo Girls (1999). "Faye Tucker" (Ray) on the album Come on Now Social [Epic Records]

  • Richard Dobson (1999). "Ballad of Chipita and Karla Faye" (Richard Dobson) on the album Global Village Garage [R&T Musikproduktion]

  • Mary Gauthier (2001). "Karla Faye" (Mary Gauthier/Crit Harmon) on the album Drag Queens in Limousines [Munich Records BV]

  • David Knopfler (2002). "Karla Faye" (David Knopfler) on the album Wishbones [Paris Records/Edel GmbH/Koch Entertainment]

Theatrical plays, films, and television

  • Last Dance (1996), Touchstone Pictures, a film based on her story starring Sharon Stone, inadvertently predicting the actual conclusion.
  • A Question of Mercy: The Karla Faye Tucker Story (1998), TV Documentary directed by Rob Feldman.
  • Dead Woman Walking: The Karla Faye Tucker Story (1999), American Justice TV Episode Bill Kurtis/Towers Productions
  • Crossed Over (2002), Film starring Jennifer Jason Leigh and Diane Keaton.

  • Karla Faye Tucker: Forevermore (2004), Film directed by Helen Gibson.

Clemency appeals came before the first-term governor of Texas George W. Bush, due to face re-election nine months hence and already looking ahead to the 2000 presidential election. The case presented George W. Bush with a delicate political situation. Bush was carving out a public persona as a tough-talking lawman — at this point in time, his willingness to execute might have been the thing he was best-known for nationally. He would need evangelical support to run for president, but parsing out life and death on that basis would raise its own difficulties.

The calculus pointed towards proceeding with the execution under cover of pious flimflammery. Sister Helen Prejean of Dead Man Walking fame later recalled it:

[O]n the night of Karla Faye’s killing, my anger at George W. Bush turned to outrage when Larry King aired Bush’s press statement and I heard the way Bush invoked God to bless his denial of clemency … “May God bless Karla Faye Tucker and may God bless her victims and their families.”

Immediately after the statement, King turned to me for a response … [I] said, “It’s interesting to see that Governor Bush is now invoking God, asking God to bless Karla Faye Tucker, when he certainly didn’t use the power in his own hands to bless her. He just had her killed.”

Bush’s political instincts proved grimly accurate this day, but Karla Faye Tucker very nearly returned to derail his presidential bid a year later.

In an interview the following year with a conservative journalist, Bush mocked Tucker’s plea for mercy with shocking cruelty, subsequently related in Talk magazine:

In the week before [Karla Faye Tucker's] execution, Bush says, Bianca Jagger and a number of other protesters came to Austin to demand clemency for Tucker. “Did you meet with any of them?” I ask.

Bush whips around and stares at me. “No, I didn’t meet with any of them,” he snaps, as though I’ve just asked the dumbest, most offensive question ever posed. “I didn’t meet with Larry King either when he came down for it. I watched his interview with [Tucker], though. He asked her real difficult questions, like ‘What would you say to Governor Bush?’ ”

“What was her answer?” I wonder.

“Please,” Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation, “don’t kill me.”

The journalistic principle demands acknowledging the president-to-be’s denial of the remark, but the denial is a self-evident lie. That story briefly threatened to punch a hole in Bush’s presidential campaign positioning as a “compassionate conservative,” and especially of having somberly reviewed the myriad death warrants he signed. But the matter vanished harmlessly.

 

Artist: Indigo Girls  Faye Tucker


On the night they killed Faye Tucker
I was gambling away my last dime
Well I pulled down the lever and I sent up a prayer
That my luck would not be denied
My luck would not be denied

Roll out the head of Faye Tucker
And never you mind what they say
You may be reborn but it's all just for scorn
And that's what you'll take to the grave
That's what you'll take the gravehttp://news.bbc.co.uk/olmedia/45000/images/_48816_copy_of_karla_fay300.jpg

Well the minister wants you to live now
And the governor wants you to fry
And whatever it was that you thought might occur
They got something else on their minds
Yeah they got something else on their minds

If you live they gonna make you a campaigner
If you die they gonna make you a grave
Either way it goes down your life's not your own
And that's why killin' don't pay
That's why killin' don't pay

Yeeeee-heeeeee

I thought I heard the angel's bells
But they were just the hounds of hell
Yeah I thought I heard angel's bells
But they were just the hounds of hell

Tell me, what did you learn, Faye Tucker
What will you take from this world
Well mercy could prove us but nothing would move us
To rise above just being cruel
To rise above just being cruel

Karla Faye Tucker Set Free: Life and Faith on Death Row

Author: Linda Strom
Manufacturer: Shaw Books
Amazon Price: $14.99
Offers - Buy New From: $2.88 Used From: $0.35
Buy Now
Editorial Review: This gripping story about the first woman executed in Texas in over one hundred years draws on accounts from family, prisoners, government officials, and friends to show how God used a remarkable woman to reach countless lives with a message of redemption and joy. Linda Strom, Tucker's spiritual advisor and close friend for eleven years, includes photographs as well as excerpts from Tucker's letters and interviews.


Reviews



The Power of Forgiveness: The Story Of Karla Faye Tucker

Amazon Price: $4.99
Offers - Buy New From: $4.99
Buy Now

Reviews



Karla Faye Tucker Set Free: Life and Faith on Death Row

Manufacturer: Waterbrook
Offers - Buy New From: $8.11 Used From: $4.95
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Editorial Review: Product Details Publisher: Waterbrook Publication date: January 1, 2012 Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 4.2 x 0.6 inches Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces Amazon.com Sales Rank: 2887016


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Killer or Christian? The True Story of Karla Faye Tucker

Author: Becca Benton
Manufacturer: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Amazon Price: $7.99
Offers - Buy New From: $6.19 Used From: $8.16
Buy Now
Editorial Review: There are numerous competing stories regarding the life and persona of Karla Faye Tucker. There is one camp that considers her to be one of the vilest killers in modern Texas history. Then there is another camp who believes that she underwent a religious conversion in prison and that her life should have been spared. Karla Faye Tucker murdered two people in 1983. She would convert to Christianity upon entering prison and a movie was produced that chronicled her life and reformation. Fifteen years after she committed her crime she would be put to death by lethal injection. Did she really change? Does it even matter? This is the story of Karla Faye Tucker, one that resonates almost twenty years after her execution.


Reviews



Forevermore: Karla Faye Tucker

Manufacturer: Virgil Films and Entertainment
Amazon Price: $9.99
Offers - Buy New From: $34.99 Used From: $1.80
Buy Now
Editorial Review: FOREVERMORE Karla Faye Tucker is based on a true story that shook the world of capital punishment. It's an emotional journey that takes a former drug-crazed prostitute and convicted pick-ax killer from the depths of despair to personal triumph on Texas death row. It is a powerful story about love and forgiveness. Karla Faye Tucker becomes a media giant, a poster girl for Christian restoration and Texas' worst nightmare as the first woman to be executed in over 100 years and the first to be executed in Texas. The race is on to save her life. With the help of her new husband, prison minister Dana Brown, Karla Faye Tucker walks-the-talk and faces inevitable challenge of her execution by lethal injection. Many prayers and letters of support from around the world pour in as the clock ticks away to February and her appointment with death. With time running out, Karla reaches out to the world with a message of hope and love. This divine love story proclaims the majestic power of God to change a life.

Awarded 3 out of 5 Doves from the Dove Foundation. Dove Family Approved & recommended for ages 12 and above.

Bonus Features: Trailers, Cast & Crew Interviews, Slide show, Scene Selection.



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Last Updated on Thursday, 01 November 2012 11:04
 

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