SHOW: CNN LARRY KING LIVE 21:00 pm ET
January 15, 1998; Thursday 9:00 pm Eastern Time
Transcript # 98011500V22
SECTION: News; Domestic
LENGTH: 7536 words
HEADLINE: Karla Faye Tucker: Does She Deserve to Die?
GUESTS: Dana Brown, Mac Secrest, Victor Rodriguez, Richard Thornton,
David Botsford, Ron Carlson, Peggy Griffey, Pat Robertson
BYLINE: Larry King
HIGHLIGHT: Karla Faye Tucker commited two grizzly murders 14 1/2 years
ago and is scheduled to be executed in a couple of weeks. Despite the
heinous crime, she still has many supporters.
BODY: LARRY KING, HOST: Good evening. On the way out to Los Angeles
yesterday, we stopped at state prison in Gatesville, Texas and
interviewed a woman who has been on death row nearly 15 years. Karla
Faye Tucker was convicted for her role in the murders of two people,
Jerry Lynn Dean (ph) and Deborah Thornton. The victims were pick-axed to
death in a Houston apartment in June of 1983. Tucker was sentenced to
death, and now that fateful day is imminent. Karla Faye Tucker is
scheduled to die by lethal injection on February 3, unless the Texas
Board of Pardons and Paroles recommends clemency. Yesterday I asked
Tucker if she's ready to face execution.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, JANUARY 14, 1998)
KARLA FAYE TUCKER: If he allows this to happen, that's OK. He's already
saved my life. My life has already been saved. And he gave me a second
chance. I didn't deserve it. I didn't give two people a second chance 14
years ago. They didn't have a chance to go on and to have a wonderful
marriage and stuff like that, and by his mercy, I was given that. So
whatever he wants to do with my life now, I'll walk that with him,
whatever he chooses. I am just thankful that I got a chance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Does Karla Faye Tucker deserve to die?
Tonight we'll ask a panel of guests, all of them involved in this case.
Here in Los Angeles we're joined by Dana Brown. He is Karla Faye's
husband of recent date. He met her while working for a prison ministry.
And here in Los Angeles is Mac Secrest, an attorney who is representing
Karla Faye through the appeals process. In Austin, Texas, our guest is
David Botsford, another attorney for Karla Faye who handles habeas corpus
In Houston we're joined by Richard Thornton, the widowed husband of
murder victim Deborah Thornton (ph). Richard faces execution -- favors,
rather, the execution for Mrs. Tucker. Also in Houston, Ron Carlson. He
is Deborah Thornton's brother and he says he's forgiven Karla Faye and
does not want her put to death. In San Antonio, Victor Rodriguez,
chairman of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. That board votes on
clemency for Tucker within the next three weeks. In Austin, Texas, our
guest is Peggy Griffey, head of the Capital Litigation Division for the
Texas state attorney general. And in Virginia Beach, the famed Pat
Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition who supports the death
penalty, but not in this case, and he feels Karla Faye Tucker should have
that sentence commuted.
Before we start ladies and gentlemen, we have a statement to this program
from Governor Bush through Karen Hughes, his communications director.
This is the governor of Texas, as stated by Karen Hughes (ph). "Governor
Bush will handle the Karla Faye Tucker case as he does all death penalty
cases. He will not look at the case until the Texas Board of Pardons and
Paroles reviews it and makes a recommendation.
The governor of Texas does not have the independent authority to commute
a death sentence. He can only consider doing so if the Texas Board of
Pardons and Paroles recommends it. The only independent authority the
governor of Texas has in a death penalty case, is to grant a one-time
30-day delay. Governor Bush asks two questions in every death penalty
case: Is there any question about the guilt of the individual? And have
the courts had adequate opportunity to review all the legal issues
Many reporters have asked whether Karla Faye's gender will make a
difference in Governor Bush's decision. The laws of the state of Texas
apply both to men and women and the governor is sworn to uphold the law.
The gender of the murderer didn't make any difference to the victims of
That is the statement by Karen Hughes for Governor Bush.
Does that make things a little pessimistic for you Dana?
DANA BROWN, HUSBAND OF KARLA FAYE TUCKER: No, sir it doesn't. We still
believe in the Lord, have for all of these years, that's the reason why
Karla is who she is today.
KING: Some questions for each of you, then we'll get into a round robin.
Why did you marry someone you have never touched?
BROWN: Because I was drawn to the spirit that is inside of her, the
spirit of Christ.
KING: The marriage doesn't bring you anything. It doesn't bring you
comfort, you don't have togetherness. You don't have relationships.
What does it bring you?
BROWN: It was a spiritual bonding that...
KING: Happened in prison?
BROWN: Yes, sir, that's where I met her, in prison, when I was going in
ministering. She's just a special lady, and I think last night you saw
that for yourself. She's just a special lady that not many people have
gotten an opportunity to meet.
KING: Mac Secrest, where does it stand right now?
MAC SECREST, KARLA FAYE TUCKER'S ATTORNEY: We're facing an imminent
execution on February 3.
KING: That's less than three weeks.
SECREST: Yes, sir. Next week we'll be filing a writ of habeas corpus,
the second writ, and we'll be filing with the Texas Board of Pardons and
Paroles, the commutation papers.
KING: That board, as I understand it, Victor, you don't meet as a board,
VICTOR RODRIGUEZ, CHAIRMAN, TEXAS BOARD OF PARDONS AND PAROLES: That's
KING: How did you hear then the plea?
RODRIGUEZ: The members are afforded the opportunity to hear these cases
in the privacte, in their offices individually, and they're afforded as
much time as possible, and as much time we can possibly afford them to
make those decisions by themselves.
KING: And you send them where?
RODRIGUEZ: They are collected at our central office in Austin, and when
we have the vote completed, we notify the petitioner, the requester, and
we notify the office of the governor as well.
KING: If you recommend clemency, is it automatic that the governor grants
RODRIGUEZ: No, sir. If for some reason the parole board recommends
clemency in a death case, then the governor at that point in time, may or
may not concur with the recommendation. He has the opportunity to
approve or deny the request in final.
KING: Have you recommended clemency in your career on the board?
RODRIGUEZ: We have not, sir, in any recent time.
KING: Not recommended clemency in any case?
RODRIGUEZ: Not in death cases. I think it's clear that we're speaking
about death cases.
KING: I see. I understand. In other cases you have?
RODRIGUEZ: Yes, sir.
KING: OK. To Richard Thornton, the widowed husband. Deborah is gone.
She died in a horrible way, but obviously Karla Faye Tucker is not the
same person as she was 14 years ago. Why do you want her executed?
RICHARD THORNTON, HUSBAND OF VICTIM: It's very simple, Larry. It's called
the law. Karla Faye Tucker is there because she broke the law. It's
capital punishment. It's not capital imprisonment. She is not there
simply to serve a sentence. She is there to be executed because she
brutally, and without any degree of mercy for her victims, just killed
two people. She killed my wife without granting her any mercy
KING: So you show her no sympathy when you see her like she was last
night, or no empathy at all?
THORNTON: Absolutely not. There's nothing there to convince me that --
you know, a person's religious beliefs are their personal beliefs, and I
can't see how the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles would be able to
determine whether or not Karla Faye Tucker is telling the truth about her
religious convictions or not. What yardstick would they use, not only
against Karla Faye, but against any other condemned person on death row?
KING: Let me get a break and come right back. We'll be back with more of
our guests, your thoughts, your phone calls later. This is LARRY KING
LIVE. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
How do you explain it to yourself, that I was involved in a violent
TUCKER: I can't make sense out of it. I don't know how to make sense out
of it, except that the choices that I made to do drugs, to buckle to peer
pressure and everything else, it was inevitable that something like that
was going to happen in my life.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We have heard from the husband of one of the victims. Let's hear
from the brother of that victim, Ron Carlson, also in Houston.
Ron, why do you think that Karla Faye should live? He killed your
sister. She killed your sister.
RON CARLSON, BROTHER OF VICTIM: Well, to be honest with you, Larry, the
reason why I think Karla should live is I don't think that we, as human
beings, have the right to take a life, whether it is for justice or
whether it is in vengeance or revenge, whatever the case may be. We, as
human beings, did not create life. God creates this life, therefore, I
believe only God should take the life.
KING: So you're opposed to capital punishment, whether it was your sister
CARLSON: Yes, sir, I guess you could put that -- put it in a nutshell,
KING: OK, did you always feel this way? Did you bear a lot of hatred for
Karla Faye after this?
CARLSON: To be honest with you, Larry, for eight years of my life, I
wanted to take an axe and hack Karla Tucker to death, just as she hacked
Jerry Dean and my sister to death. But it's only through the grace of
God and Jesus Christ that that hatred has been removed from my body, and
my mind and replaced with love and compassion not
only for Karla Faye, but also for my nephew, William Joseph Davis. And
also, my former brother-in-law, Richard Thornton. I have a lot of
compassion for all of the parties involved.
KING: Peggy Griffey, you're head of the Capital Litigation Division,
Texas attorney general's office.
Your role in all of this is what, Peggy?
PEGGY GRIFFEY, CAPITAL LITIGATION DIVISION, TEXAS ATTORNEY GENERAL'S
OFFICE: At this point in time, my role is really very little. I have
handled all the appeals in federal court on behalf of the state. But at
this point in time, I guess I am waiting for them to file another writ,
and if it reaches federal court, then I will be again involved in the
KING: The Supreme Court has refused to hear it, right?
GRIFFEY: That's correct.
KING: Do you have an opinion as to whether she should live, the law
GRIFFEY: Oh, dear. I think my perspective is mainly drawn from the law.
I can't judge her and whether -- or even perceive whether her conversion
is one that's true, whether she is now a future danger or not. But what
I am concerned about is the process that would require the governor in --
or some other body in the state of Texas to try and look into the heart
of every capital defendant who faces execution and...
KING: What, then, Peggy, is the rules of commutation? If you have a law
that allows commutation, what would be your basis to commute someone on
death row? Give me one example of what you would commute for?
GRIFFEY: Well, I think that's within the discretion of the governor's
KING: But give me an example, any example of -- we will commute a death
penalty in Texas if...
GRIFFEY: If the person is innocent, for example.
KING: Well, naturally, you'd pardon. But commute -- that means a lesser
sentence, if what?
GRIFFEY: I really don't have an example ready for you. I think that it's
very hazardous to second guess the jury. I don't think we can look into
someone's heart and find out whether they have changed.
KING: David Botsford, that being true, Karla Faye Tucker's attorney with
us in Austin, it would appear you're up against it, since there's no
ground he has to commute.
DAVID BOTSFORD, KARLA FAYE TUCKER'S ATTORNEY: Well, Larry, I respectfully
disagree with that. I think that the Texas Board of
Pardons and Paroles, although there are no guidelines, should clearly
commute Karla Faye Tucker's death sentence to life.
KING: Based on?
BOTSFORD: Based on her actual rehabilitation. Her record of 14 years
speaks for itself. The fact that the two prosecutors in her co-
defendant's case, Danny Garrett (ph), have stepped forward and urged for
her commutation. You look at what Ron is saying. In this state,
victims' rights are very important. And I understand there's a split
within the families of the victims, but at the same time, that should be
given great weight. More importantly, if I might, we believe that her
execution would be unconstitutional under the Constitution of the United
States. The Texas...
BOTSFORD: Well, because the commutation process in this state, in
essence, is nonexistence.
KING: Sounds like it.
BOTSFORD: It really is. Look at 1997. There were 16 requests for
commutation to the board. Not one of the 18 members of the Board of
Pardons and Paroles voted to recommend a commutation.
KING: OK. Before we bring -- before we bring in Pat Robertson -- Victor
Rodriguez, give me an example, in a death case, of when you would vote to
RODRIGUEZ: I would have to have, probably, be looking at a few
situations. I think we have to -- one of the things that's really
troubling me now in the most recent time has been, what are we talking
about when we say "commute?"
I've seen the subject of commutation with Karla Faye Tucker go from the
suggestion that we should be looking at her and spare her life so she can
do the Lord's work in prison for the rest of her life. And last night I
saw your interview with her, and I thought it was one of the most telling
interviews. And one part that troubles me about it is the idea thinking
that there is freedom for her in the future.
So, my question is, what are we talking about when we say commutation?
And, for the attorneys that represent Karla Faye Tucker, I have a
question for you. Is this proposition ready to be submitted with the idea
that she -- if she were commuted she would waive all future release
probabilities, parole, otherwise, that she would simply be happy to spend
the rest of her life in prison?
KING: That's a very good question, and Mr. Secrest will you answer it?
SECREST: We would waive it in a New York second.
KING: She will serve life, no parole?
SECREST: In a New York second, Larry.
KING: You concur, David Botsford, her other attorney?
BOTSFORD: No question about it, Larry. She has...
KING: Does that ease you, Victor?
KING: Does that ease you, they both will sign any form you want,
guarantee she spends life, no parole.
RODRIGUEZ: It eases me that they have at least now regressed back to the
idea that we have started with when this discussion all opened up with
KING: All right, let me get a break, Victor. We'll come back. We'll get
the thoughts of Pat Robertson and what Dana feels like after that promise
by the lawyers, since it will mean he will never be in physical contact
with his wife. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Did you walk around with any guilt?
TUCKER: I not only didn't walk around with any guilt, I was proud of
thinking that I had finally measured up to the big boys.
KING: Your boyfriend was proud of you?
TUCKER: Yes. Isn't that sick? That's crazy.
KING: No guilt?
TUCKER: None, none back then. I didn't care about anybody. I didn't
care about myself. I didn't place any value on myself or anybody else.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back. And joining us now from Virginia Beach, Virginia, an
old friend, Pat Robertson, the founder of the Christian Coalition.
Anyone who knows Pat Robertson knows that he favors capital punishment.
Why now are you standing up for Mrs. Tucker?
PAT ROBERTSON, FOUNDER, CHRISTIAN COALITION: Larry, as you said, you're
absolutely correct. I favor capital punishment, but if it's going to be
effective it should be certain and it should be swift.
Fourteen-and-a-half years is bordering on cruel and unusual punishment to
keep somebody waiting to die in prison.
But, you know, we first came across Karla Faye when Kathy Cairo (ph) our
reporter, went down to see her in 1992. We did a story on her in
November 10, 1993. We've gone back subsequently. There's no question
that this lady has had a profound change. And our reporter has gotten to
be a good friend of hers and has seen this remarkable lady. And, I can't
see what would be served in Texas to execute her now after 14 1/2 years.
KING: How much...
ROBERTSON: Go ahead, I'm sorry.
KING: How much of your feeling and fight is based on the Christian
aspect? There was a letter in the "L.A. Times" today -- it's a fair
question to ask you -- supposing she had been a converted Jew and was as
nice as she is and totally committed as she is, but Jewish, would you be
taking up this call?
ROBERTSON: I don't think that would have been an issue, frankly. The
question is, did she really change? Is she a different person? And, you
know, mercy trumps justice. Everybody is talking about "well, the law
says." Well, you know, the great law giver was Moses. Well, he killed
somebody in Egypt, but God forgave him. The same thing with David.
murdered a man through battle in order to take his wife, but God forgave
him. There's forgiveness in the Bible, and I think we need to apply
mercy in some of these cases. I believe in the death penalty, no
question about it. But I just think it's totally inappropriate here.
KING: Are you concerned that it appears there are no guidelines for
ROBERTSON: Well, one of the attorneys pointed out that in itself could be
unconstitutional. I think that they certainly, if they're going to draft
as draconian as this, and then they're going to give a body the power to
commute sentences then they should give them certain guidelines that they
can operate under. It's a very loose system, and I think it's
KING: Dana, how did you feel about both lawyers guaranteeing that she'd
never come out of jail?
BROWN: I think that would be fantastic. I think she deserves to live and
she is reaching people right now, Larry. She has been reaching people
for 14 1/2 years from a six-by-nine cell, more people than those of us
reach on the outside.
KING: Well, what kind of life would you have, as her husband, if she's in
jail for life?
BROWN: The same kind I have had with her for the last 2 1/2 years, or
really four years, but the 2 1/2 years since we've been married. She's a
blessing. She's just a special person.
KING: You'd be very happy if they agreed to that?
BROWN: Yes, sir.
KING: Pat, any political clout here? You must know George Bush pretty
well. I know his father pretty well.
ROBERTSON: Well, George is, I am sure, hard in the pack for the
Republican nomination for president. I don't know which way he'll come
down. I talked to Dick Wineholt, (ph) who's head of the Christian
Coalition in Texas. He's in favor of executing Karla Faye. I said, you
know, I'm going to tell people tonight you're wrong, but we're still good
KING: Have you talked to the governor?
ROBERTSON: No, I haven't talked to him. I wouldn't presume to interfere
with his judgment on this. This is a decision he's going to have to
agonize over. And I know he has to have the opinion of the pardon and
parole commission before he can make a judgment on it. So, I haven't
talked to him.
KING: We'll take a break and be back with more on LARRY KING LIVE.
Tomorrow night, Denzel Washington is with us and Monday night, her first
appearance since the death of her husband, Mary Bono will be with us.
Monday night, the widow of Sonny Bono, don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TUCKER: Part of my appeal to them is that when you change from being part
of the problem to being a part of the solution, allow somebody that. If
I was in here still messing up, still hurting people or trying to kill
people, I know that the parole board would strike that against me in a
major way. So if there is a change for the positive, and it's proven and
it's factual, why can't that be considered?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Richard Thornton, the husband of one of the murder victims, does
Pat Robertson's arguments move you at all?
RODRIGUEZ: No, sir. And I have got to tell you, Larry, I am appalled
that Mr. Robertson, a very learned man would compare Moses with Karla
Faye Tucker. That, I think, is a bit of a stretch. And I want to also
make a point about what the attorneys grand standing offer, which is
against the law. They can't do it in the state of Texas. There is no
such thing as life without parole. If her sentence was commuted, she
could be walking the streets in 2003. That means she could be standing
right next to my son, my stepson, Deborah's son, who is not here to
speak. I am speaking for him.
KING: Are you disappointed that her brother is against her being
RODRIGUEZ: Absolutely not. I have the most compassion for Ronnie. My
wife had a lot of compassion for him. He was the best man
at my wedding when I remarried. That's the kind of feelings I have for
Ronnie. Ronnie's opinions are his own. That's his religion. Everyone
has a right to their own opinion.
CARLSON: I am glad to hear that.
RODRIGUEZ: It has nothing to do with Ronnie and myself. We're not at
odds personally over this. Our views are at odds.
RODRIGUEZ: But I have a great deal of compassion with what he wants to
do. I just cannot understand lawyers who say, oh, we could make this
offer, when the offer doesn't exist in law. It's a very simple matter.
There's no question...
KING: Is he right Mac?
RODRIGUEZ: There's no question that there's legalities...
KING: Hold it. Mac says you're not right. You can sign something that
says you'll stay in for life?
SECREST: There's ample authority, Larry, that for any type of commutation
or pardon, any type of clemency, you can have irrevocable conditions in
it. Case laws legend -- it goes back for years.
KING: Peggy Griffey, is it clear -- you're not objective, because you
argue the case for the state, that Miss Tucker is up against it here?
There are no ground rules for commuting a sentence, the parole board
doesn't even meet. They do it in the privacy of their own offices. The
governor has never commuted. The parole board has never commuted. The
governor is a strong advocate of capital punishment and says men and
women don't make a difference. Doesn't it look pretty hopeless?
GRIFFEY: Yes, I think it probably does in many respects. Frankly, the
idea that there is some sort of right to any kind of clemency process is
rather a stretch in and of itself. Clemency has always been something
that's been entirely discretionary. It would be entirely within the
board's and the governor's prerogative to grant clemency in this case,
but there is no requirement that they do so.
KING: Do you have sympathy for her?
GRIFFEY: Yes, I have sympathy for her. I think that there -- that
individuals, people, always want to have people see them at their most
advantageous. Any of us have done things in our life that we regret,
that we wish we didn't have to live with the consequences for the rest of
our lives, but unfortunately, certain judgments are made and set in time,
and cannot be revoked. She cannot undo the killings that she did.
KING: I am going to ask Victor Rodriguez, chairman of the Texas Board of
Pardons and Paroles in a minute...
RODRIGUEZ: Yes, sir.
KING: ... what someone could say to him that might have him think of
commuting a sentence and we'll be taking your phone calls. Our full panel
remains with us. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TUCKER: And what I firmly believe is that if God is going to allow this
to happen, he has a purpose for it. If he has a purpose for my life to
continue on, he'll change the hearts of the governor and the parole
board. He'll help them to see what can be done through a commutation.
KING: And if they do not, would that cause you to doubt your faith?
KING: You would go into that room, I guess it's a room, huh?
TUCKER: Yes. I would go in there still speak out for the love of God.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Welcome back to our discussion of the Karla Faye Tucker death
penalty case. Our guests tonight, here in Los Angeles, Dana Brown, Karla
Faye Tucker's husband. They were married in prison by proxy. Also in
Los Angeles, attorney Mac Secrest. He has represented Karla throughout
the appeals process. In Austin, Texas is Karla Faye's other attorney,
David Botsford. In Houston, our guest is Richard Thornton, husband of
the murder victim, Deborah Thornton, and he favors execution.
Also in Houston, we have Ron Carlson, Deborah Thornton's brother. He's
against the execution. In San Antonio, we have Victor Rodriguez. He is
chairman of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. His will be a
significant voice in this. In Austin, our guest is Peggy Griffey head of
the Capital Litigation Division for the Texas state attorney general's
office, argued the case in the state, appeals in which the defendant
lost. And in Virginia Beach, Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian
Coalition and a supporter of Karla Faye Tucker.
Victor, what would be something that would open you to recommend
commutation? Would it be the fact that the prosecutor recommends it? The
brother of the victim -- I mean what would be -- open you to say, I am
going to think about this?
RODRIGUEZ: I think that there would have to be -- there would have to be
a reasonable question as to responsibility for the crime for me to start
looking or start leaning towards that corner. I have not had a case come
to me that has approached that, to this date.
KING: If the prosecutor said he would he would waive it, it would be OK
with him, that wouldn't move you?
RODRIGUEZ: Larry, I have got to -- I don't want to lay out today what I
may or may not do with the case, certainly not in Karla Faye Tucker's
case. I have got to be able to look at her case, and you know, her case
is for her to make. The petition she is going to submit to us, that's her
case. That's her opportunity for her to make her case. We must fall in
and decide based on our appraisal of that petition...
KING: I got you. But you give them no guideline as to what you need to
RODRIGUEZ: No, sir.
KING: OK. So if I was appealing to you, and the prosecutor doesn't work,
and the fact that she may be better doesn't work, nothing is going to
RODRIGUEZ: Well, is -- I mean, we have a fundamental rule, and that is to
do what's right. And when we are faced with these questions, we would
have to say that many, many people have been wrong up to date. And those
don't come around too often.
KING: Pat Robertson, if Karla Faye Tucker was Carl Tucker, would you be
ROBERTSON: I don't think that really makes any difference. It shouldn't
be the sex of the person. Larry a few year ago I was down in Reford
Prison (ph), the maximum security in Florida, and I was on death row.
There were two men there. The chair was just down the hall. It's an
awesome experience. I held the hands of these men through the bars and I
prayed and said, God your will be done. There were two men: One was a
contract killer for the mob, the other was a man who killed his wife in a
fit of passion. Both men were facing death penalty. I said "God I don't
know what to ask you for, but I just ask that your will will be done."
The next day both were released into the prison population because of a
technical glitch in the proceedings in a ruling of the supreme court of
Florida. But they were men. But my heart went out to them as they would
to a woman, because you feel for somebody that's on death row. It's not
a pleasant experience.
KING: Peggy, you're a woman. We have to face it. I don't know that it
would have gotten attention if this were a man. A woman hasn't been
executed in Texas in over a hundred years.
Isn't that part of this story?
GRIFFEY: Well, I think it apparently is. But I really don't think it
should be. There's been a case made for her, I think, last night she
talked about it, that she was not raised in an ideal home environment,
that she did a lot of drugs, and that perhaps her crime is attributable
to both of these things and that now she's changed person. But my
question is what about the men on death row who have found religion?
They didn't have the opportunity to present their case in this manner.
And perhaps even more importantly, where are the voices that are going
out to try and correct things such as the circumstances that she's
attributing her crime to?
Where are the voices on behalf of children who are abused, who don't have
education, who don't have the medical attention that they need? It seems
to me that we're looking at the end and at the consequences for one
person who committed a very violent crime rather than looking at maybe,
perhaps the sources.
KING: David Botsford, the other attorney for Karla, does it appear, based
on the statements of Victor Rodriguez tonight that you got a tough row to
BOTSFORD: I think that Mr. Rodriguez has made it clear that there's a
tough row to hoe. But I think that the facts speak for themselves. The
commutation petition will speak for itself. And I think that if he and
other members of the board have an open mind to the situation, they
should recommend executive clemency to the governor. At least give the
governor the opportunity to make that tough decision.
KING: Pat, any doubt in your mind about her sincerity?
ROBERTSON: Not one iota, because we have observed her, as I said, over a
number of years. This isn't just some death row conversion. I am sure
they happen all the time. There are more born- again Christians in
prison than you can imagine who are faking some religious conversion.
There's no question about it. But with Karla Faye, she's sincere and
anybody could watch her life over the years and see it's true. Larry,
what we're talking about here is vengeance and why does society need
vengeance? I believe...
KING: Then why favor capital punishment at all, Pat?
ROBERTSON: I am for it as a deterrent but as I said...
KING: Well, it doesn't appear to be a deterrent in Texas and Florida.
ROBERTSON: It really isn't.
KING: They have more executions.
ROBERTSON: The amount of murders is way up in Texas so it's not stopping
anything. After 14 1/2 years, how can you expect it to be a deterrent? A
criminal doesn't feel deterred by somebody sitting in jail for this
length of time.
KING: Let me get a break and come back. We'll include phone calls.
Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TUCKER: I would -- I would love to be able to live on. I have a lot of
love in me, a lot. And Jesus gave that to me. There's a lot of people
out there who don't feel loved. There's a lot of people out there who
need to know that just how they are, they are loved. They're worth being
loved and I can give that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back in Los Angeles. Ready to go to your phone calls.
Rochester, New York, hello.
CALLER: Yes, I'd like to ask Mr. Thornton if he could please explain the
nature of the crime and any background of Mrs. Tucker, if it applies.
THORNTON: You know, Karla Faye Tucker and her boyfriend, Danny Garrett
went and premeditated this murder, contrary to what she said last night.
The tapes that are in evidence show that. Went to this man's apartment,
Jerry Dean. My wife happened to be there. She's just a particularly
innocent person in this entire case. She was just in the wrong place at
the wrong time.
They went there with a shotgun. They were supposedly high on drugs, had
been doing drugs for many days, according to the testimony, and went into
the apartment and Mrs. Tucker and Mr. Dean had a strong dislike for each
other. Mrs. Tucker went in there -- into the bedroom where Dean was, and
just hit him with a hammer and cratered his skull.
When his -- his body had a gurgling sound that she could not stand, she
picked up a pick-axe, which is a very large construction instrument that
was next to the bed and began to plunge it into his body. It took about
10 or 15 minutes of this while my wife was underneath the sheets. They
told her to get underneath the sheets and that they wouldn't hurt her.
Of course, they lied to her. And when they finished killing Jerry Dean,
then Karla Faye Tucker took the pick-axe and attacked my wife with it.
Now, my wife came up out of the sheets, by the way, and tried to pull the
pick-axe away from Karla Tucker, almost got it from her, when Danny
Garrett came from behind and hit my wife in the head with a shotgun butt,
knocked her down, and they picked her each -- they took turns doing this.
And Mrs. Tucker got sexual gratification -- this is what she testified
to, this is what the tape proves -- she was sexually gratified each time
she hit the bodies with this pick-axe.
KING: And the other perpetrator died of natural causes.
THORNTON: My wife saw to that.
KING: How do you respond to that, Mac? I mean, that -- that is the case
that is going to make it the hardest for you to overcome, the method,
right? This is not a shooting a husband over seeing another woman.
SECREST: That's true. It's a horrible crime. And I don't want to get
into a swearing match with Mr. Thornton. He has some of the facts wrong,
but I don't want to get into that discussion because the facts, as they
truly were presented in court, were absolutely horrible. But the first
person in the world to tell you that and to accept that responsibility is
Karla Faye Tucker.
KING: And Ron -- Ron...
THORNTON: She never apologized.
KING: She never apologized?
SECREST: That's not true.
THORNTON: She's never said my wife's name. She's never admitted to the
crime. She won't even talk about it.
BROWN: That's not true. And would love for you to go and sit down and
talk to you right now.
THORNTON: She has the opportunity right now, Dana. She had the
opportunity last night. She had the opportunity at any time...
KING: You didn't think she apologized last night, Richard. You didn't
think that was an apology last night -- that how sorry she was and she
THORNTON: She mentioned Jerry Dean's name, but she didn't mention
Deborah's name. She can't because she's the innocent. Tucker went there
to kill Dean. Deborah was there and Tucker took her life simply because
she was there, for no other reason.
KING: Ron, after you have just heard, you still want her to live, right,
CARLSON: That's correct.
KING: That was your sister.
CARLSON: The simple fact that even though my sister was an innocent
victim and I well know that. I too, say that my sister was
in the wrong place at the wrong time. I know the facts of the case. I
wasn't at the trials, but I read all the transcripts. I know what went
down. I heard the tape. I have seen all of the pictures. People call
them the eight-and-a-half-by-eleven glossies. I have seen it all. But
through all of that, I still don't believe she should be executed.
KING: Well said.
CARLSON: And -- and the fact does remain that the reason why I changed
was because of the fact that the Lord moved in in my life. As I have
stated earlier, before I had what a lot of people will call is a
conversion, I wanted her dead too.
KING: Odessa, Texas, hello.
CALLER: Yes sir, I believe Karla Tucker is the lucky one in this case
because she's had 14 years to get her life right with God. And Pat
Robertson ought to think about that because if justice was swift and
quick, she would not have that opportunity to get right with God.
KING: Good point, Pat?
ROBERTSON: Well, you're right. My friend, Dick Wineholt made that very
point on the phone this evening. Obviously, God gave her some mercy and
grace to do just that. And if she were executed, she would go to be with
the Lord forever in heaven, so she would be a winner in that one. You're
absolutely right on that.
KING: If she were to be, would you attend, Pat?
ROBERTSON: Attend the execution?
ROBERTSON: No, I wouldn't plan do that, Larry. I might, but I wasn't
planning to right now. I just hope that occasion doesn't arise.
KING: We'll be back with more and more phone calls after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TUCKER: When you have done something like what I have done and you have
been forgiven for it, and you're loved, that has a way of so changing
you. I mean, I have experienced real love. I know what real love is. I
know what forgiveness is. Even when I did something so horrible, I know
that because God forgave me and I accepted what Jesus did on the cross,
when I leave here, I am going to go be with him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Mac, would you tell me if the board -- did the board ever meet in a
SECREST: Our research has indicated that one time in the last 25 years
they have met in a group to have a hearing on a death penalty commutation
KING: Why not, Victor?
KING: Why don't you all meet and talk to her and have her appear? It's a
RODRIGUEZ: Well, we will rely on the law of Texas that does not require
us to do so. We are not going to treat this case any different than the
cases we have treated in the most recent time. We're not going to treat
it differently because of gender. We're not going to treat it
differently because of religion. We're going to look at this case and
judge it on its merits, judge it on the merits of the petition. If we're
given the opportunity to decide it, we'll decide this case like we have
decided all the other cases in recent time.
KING: Richard, would you like to go visit Karla Faye?
THORNTON: Larry, I really have no desire to go meet with her, to see her.
She took away something from me that was something so valuable that she
could never repay it. She took something away from someone else even
more than I. From Debbie's son, she took his mother. From -- from that
young man, who, at the tender age of 12 years old, learned that his
mother had been pick-axed to death by this woman. He stole a mother --
at the tender age that he learns how to deal with life, he had to do that
without his mother.
Karla Faye Tucker testified yesterday that she wanted her mother in the
worst way. And yet, we are to have mercy on this person who took it away
from this boy? Pat Robertson, where is the God for my son? Where is he?
What should I tell him that the God will do for him?
ROBERTSON: I'd think you'd tell him, the son of God died for him and he
loves him and that he said forgiveness is the answer. I don't know of
anything in the Christian faith that doesn't imply forgiveness. I mean,
I am a sinner. I deserve to die. But God forgave me because I have
sinned against him. And he forgave me.
The whole premise of the Christian faith is based on love and mercy and
forgiveness, not on vengeance. I mean, this is kind of like Old
Testament justice. Vengeance. And the Bible says, "vengeance is mine,
saith the Lord. I will repay." I don't...
THORNTON: It also says, "thou shalt not kill."
KING: All right, let me get a break. We've got to get a break. We've got
to come back and when we come back, we'll get a closing comment from
everybody, get another phone call in too. Time runs quickly. Don't go
KING: Get in another call, Birmingham, Alabama, hello.
CALLER: Hi, Larry.
KING: What's the question?
CALLER: Go ahead, I can't hear you?
KING: What's the question.
CALLER: My question is, if Karla Faye is a born-again Christian and she
always wants to go -- I mean, if I said that there was a better place
like heaven with God, and...
KING: You mean, why doesn't she want to go?
KING: What's your answer, Dana?
KING: If it's better there, why not go sooner?
BROWN: Well, for -- the main reason is, because I think she can reach
other people for Jesus. She can reach other people. She can steer
people away, allowing the Lord to use her.
KING: But sir, you have no doubt, if it comes to the worst and she is
executed, she is going to a better place?
BROWN: Oh, absolutely.
KING: You think the same, right Pat?
ROBERTSON: There's no doubt about it, Larry, but you know, let's face it,
Christians aren't suicidal. I mean, we want to stay in this life. The
Apostle Paul said, "I'm in a strait between two -- whether to depart and
be with the Lord, which is far better or to remain in the flesh, which is
needful for you." We have a job to do, and we stay here and do it, and
Karla has that feeling.
KING: So, you think your main argument will be on constitutionality of
the commutation law?
SECREST: That's where it's going to center. You know, as Mr. Rodriguez
said, and I was delighted to hear that he wanted to be fair. To be fair,
they need to read what we file. They need to hear from us. Everybody
needs to vote and they need to consider mercy and a criteria beyond what
we're talking about now, Larry.
KING: David Botsford, do you have anything tonight to be optimistic
BOTSFORD: Yes, Larry. I do. Do you want to know what?
KING: Yeah, quickly.
BOTSFORD: The good Lord has blessed Karla. She has asked the good Lord
to bless Mac and I. She's going to a better place eventually but I think
that Mr. Rodriguez and the board members, their awareness has been
heightened, the need to look at this closely, and they do need to
consider rehabilitation and mercy.
KING: Richard, if she is executed, will you feel better?
THORNTON: Larry, it will give my family and I the ability to go on with
our lives. When she was sentenced on death row, so were we. have lived
with this for fourteen-and-a-half years. We'll be just as happy to leave
it behind us and be able to get on with our lives.
KING: And Ron, you will feel badly if she is taken, right?
CARLSON: That is correct because not only the fact that I will see
another person executed, but the fact that not just because it's another
person, but because it is a sister in Christ. I myself have -- have come
to a situation in my life where I had to test her because I didn't even
believe what she was. I have spent six years of my last life visiting
Miss Tucker, writing to her -- writing to her in letters and I firmly
believe that she's a Christian and I feel that she is a sister in Christ.
KING: Peggy Griffey, are you concerned about the possibility, the
argument that the commutation law in Texas may be unconstitutional?
GRIFFEY: No, I really am not. I think that clemency, since the time of
the Magna Carta has been an inherently discretionary matter. It has
belonged to the sovereign, which in this case, is the governor. And I
think that this -- the discretionary nature of the Texas clemency process
will withstand the test.
KING: Victor, if the date is February 3, when do you have to have your
recommendation in by?
RODRIGUEZ: We have set a deadline for January the 27. We'd like to have
it before that. But our deadline for filing right now is January the 27.
KING: Pat, do you think it would help if people are against this
execution to write?
ROBERTSON: Well, it never hurts to write. But I think the parole board
is going to make up its own mind. I think they might do some praying and
join with Karla. I think that's the most effective thing because it
sounds, from what I have heard, it's going to take a miracle to get this
sentence commuted and I don't think it's going to be done by writing
KING: Would you agree, Mac, sounds like a miracle?
SECREST: If in fact, we don't get a hearing and they don't review the
papers and they don't take votes and they don't get really interested in
the process, it's going to take a miracle, Larry.
KING: Have there been polls, David, in Texas as to the feeling of the
BOTSFORD: Not that I am aware of. I know there have been hundreds of
thousands of letters addressed to the governor and to the board of
pardons and paroles from around the world.
KING: Dana, you remain optimistic?
BROWN: We serve a miracle work in God.
KING: Thank you all very much for a fascinating hour, and of course, we
at CNN LARRY KING LIVE will stay right on top of this.
Tomorrow night, Denzel Washington will join us, plus the parents of a
little child missing for sometime, still not found.
Saturday night, Tony Randall. And Monday night, her first appearance
since the death of her husband, Mary Bono will join us on Monday evening.
Thanks to all of our guests. Good night.
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