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Attorney for woman on death row challenges Texas procedures

January 20, 1998
Web posted at: 2:12 p.m. EST (1912 GMT)

AUSTIN, Texas (CNN) -- An attorney for convicted killer Karla Faye Tucker attempted a legal maneuver Tuesday designed to prevent her from being executed by lethal injection next month.

Attorney David Botsford filed a constitutional appeal with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Tuesday morning, challenging the state's clemency procedure by calling it unconstitutional.

Critics of the state's clemency procedures claim there are no hearings to present witnesses and no way to refute any erroneous information that is contained in a prisoner's file.

Later this week Botsford will formally file a petition for clemency for his client with the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole.

Under Texas law, the parole board cannot consider commuting a sentence until it receives a written request from the condemned, the condemned's representatives or from a majority of the trial officials.

The board usually acts on clemency requests within five days. Ten of the 18 board members must approve or deny the request before making a recommendation to Gov. George W. Bush. The governor may commute a death sentence only after receiving a recommendation from the parole board, but he is not bound by the board's opinion. If the parole board denies a clemency request, the governor cannot grant it.

Tucker, 38, an ex-drug abuser and prostitute, admits taking part in the pick-ax murders of Jerry Lynn Dean and Deborah Thornton of Houston in June 1983.

Jerry Lynn Dean and Deborah Thornton   

Her attorneys say she is a now born again Christian who deserves a chance to live.

Her execution is scheduled for February 3. If it is carried out she will be the first woman executed in Texas since 1863. If Tucker's death sentence is commuted to life in prison, she will be eligible for parole on July 21, 2003.


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