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Tucker loses clemency bid; Bush reprieve still possible

Tucker
Tucker   
In this story:

AUSTIN, Texas (CNN) -- The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles on Monday denied clemency to Karla Faye Tucker, the pickax killer who is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Tuesday night.

The board's recommendation will be passed to Texas Gov. George W. Bush, who could let the ruling stand or ask for a 30-day reprieve to let the board reconsider its decision on the former drug-using prostitute turned born-again Christian.

Top graphic

Tucker Profile:
Facing death with memories of murder

Transcripts:
Larry King interviews Tucker
Larry King debate on Tucker case

Statistics:
Women on Death Row

Poll:
Should gender be an issue?

Message Board:
Debating the death penalty

Excerpts:
Tucker's letter seeking reprieve

A spokesman said Bush would have no announcement until Tuesday.

Tucker has also appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The 18-member Texas panel voted 16-0 against recommending clemency, with two board members abstaining.

"The board felt ... that given the information that we have about this case, that it ... does not recommend commuting the sentence from a death penalty to a lesser penalty," board chairman Victor Rodriguez told reporters at a news conference in Austin.

Tucker had also asked for a 60-or 90-day reprieve -- a postponement of her execution. That, too, was denied with 16 board members voting no, one member voting yes, and one member abstaining.

Tucker attorney blasts parole board

Tucker's lawyer, David Botsford, quickly criticized the vote and decision. "The clemency process in this state is a farce," he said. "There is no mercy in Texas."

In a videotape made on Saturday -- in anticipation of the board's rejection -- Tucker asked Bush to approve a 30-day reprieve, Botsford announced.

Death chamber
Death chamber   

"That is the only thing the governor can do at this time... in light of the fact that the board did not meet as a group. The board did not discuss this matter as a group. The board did not (hold) a public hearing," Botsford told reporters after speaking with Tucker, whom he described as "upbeat."

The attorney also said he did not believe the board reviewed all the material submitted for its consideration prior to faxing their votes to Rodriguez. "Some of the votes came in before additional materials were submitted before the 28th, 29th and 30th" of January, Botsford said.

Parole board says Tucker's gender not a factor

If the execution is carried out in the death chamber at the Huntsville Unit of the Texas Department of Corrections, Tucker, 38, would be the first woman executed in Texas since 1863 and only the second in the United States since the Supreme Court in 1976 allowed capital punishment to resume.

Rodriguez said the fact that Tucker is a woman was not a factor in the board's decisions to deny clemency and a reprieve.

"To us, when it came down to decision-making, the case was examined on its own merits, absent of sex, gender, religion or otherwise," he said.

Rodriguez announces the denial
icon 893K/10 sec. AIFF or WAV sound

Sentenced to death for murdering two people in a Houston apartment in 1983, Tucker contends she is a changed woman who has found God and can serve as a resource for others if her death sentence is changed to life in prison.

But Rodriguez said the gruesome nature of the case "carried a lot of weight" in the board's decisions. (icon 281K/22 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

Denial of clemency was expected

Parole board members began considering Tucker's plea for clemency -- which means leniency or mercy -- last week.

But given the panel's recent history, even a single vote from the 18-member panel in favor of clemency for a condemned murderer would have been unusual.

Tucker would have needed at least 10 votes, because Gov. Bush may commute -- change -- a death sentence only if a majority of the board recommends it.

The board unanimously rejected 16 similar requests last year. "No one has yet to make a strong enough case for commutation," Rodriguez said.

Texas law gives governors little independent authority in such cases, with the power to issue only a one-time, 30-day reprieve.

Murder scene
Tucker and Daniel Garrett killed two people with a pickax in 1983   

No decision yet from Supreme Court

In their appeal to the Supreme Court, Tucker's lawyers contend the Texas process for commuting a prison sentence is unconstitutional in part because of the consistent lack of favorable rulings.

Lawyers argued there are no guidelines for deciding commutation requests and no public hearings where inmates can appear.

They have asked the high court to stay Tucker's execution while the case is heard.

 
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