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Monday, February 2, 1998 Published at 16:29 GMT



Special Report

Clock ticks for death row woman
image: [ Debate rages as Karla Faye Tucker's execution draws closer ]
Debate rages as Karla Faye Tucker's execution draws closer

Texas is preparing to execute a woman for the first time in 135 years.

Karla Faye Tucker, 38, is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Tuesday for her part in bludgeoning a man to death in Houston, Texas, in June 1983.

Tucker had been hoping for a last minute reprieve but the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles have rejected her final plea for clemency. The board's rejection means that Texas Governor George Bush can only offer her a 30-day postponement.


[ image: Karla Faye Tucker was 23 at the time of the killings]
Karla Faye Tucker was 23 at the time of the killings
The Tucker case has become controversial throughout the United States. Human rights and religious groups say that Tucker has repented and her sentence should be commuted. Texas officials argued that her repentence should not entitle Tucker to any special consideration.

Tucker and her boyfriend murdered Jerry Lynn Dean, 27, and his companion Deborah Thornton, 32, in a particularly gruesome double-murder. Both victims were mutilated with a pickaxe and Tucker, a former drug addict and prostitute, later said that the killings gave her sexual pleasure. Although she admits to the Thornton murder, she was never tried for that crime.

Politics comes in to play

The case of Karla Faye Tucker has created some unlikely political alliances. Human rights advocates, the Christian right, feminist organisations, anti-death penalty groups and celebrities, such as former model Bianca Jagger, all are urging the state of Texas to grant her a reprieve.


[ image: Bianca Jagger, speaking for Amnesty International, is fighting for Ms Tucker's life]
Bianca Jagger, speaking for Amnesty International, is fighting for Ms Tucker's life
The Christian Coalition - the leaders of America's religious right - generally supports capital punishment. In this case though, it says her professed repentance and conversion to Christianity should be taken into consideration and that the sentence should be commuted.

Texas, which is responsible for one-third of all executions in the United States, has not put a woman to death since 1863 when Chipita Rodriguez was executed for killing a horse trader.

Does repentance mean reprieve?

Many had hoped that the attention the case has received would persuade Texas officials to commute Tucker's sentence.

Tucker even appeared live on national television from the Mountain View Prison in Gatesville, Texas, where she has been held since the US Supreme Court rejected her appeal.


[ image: CNN's Larry King interviewed Ms Tucker at a Texas prison]
CNN's Larry King interviewed Ms Tucker at a Texas prison
In an interview with CNN's Larry King, Tucker said that 15 years in prison had changed her. "I am no longer a continual threat to society," she said.

The only woman to be executed in the United States since 1976 is Velma Barfield, 52, who was killed in 1984 in North Carolina for poisoning four people.

She also had a prison conversion to Christianity.


 





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