Tucker will die unless Texas governor steps in
Supreme Court refuses to halt her execution
In this story:
February 3, 1998
Web posted at: 4:06 p.m. EST (2106 GMT)
HUNTSVILLE, Texas (CNN) -- Condemned killer Karla Faye
Tucker, who may have less than an hour to live, was denied a
last-minute stay of execution by the U.S. Supreme Court on
Only intervention by Texas Gov. George W. Bush now stands
between Tucker and the distinction of becoming the first
woman executed in Texas since 1863 and the first in the
nation since 1984.
There was no dissent, and the justices' brief order made no
comment on the case.
Bush could grant a one-time, 30-day stay -- a delay of
execution while her case is reconsidered -- but had said he
would not make a decision until after the high court ruled.
Bush spokesmen said after the ruling was announced that no
announcement by him was immediately scheduled.
Tucker and Daniel Garrett killed two people with a
pickax in 1983
Without intervention, Tucker was to be led to the death
chamber and strapped onto a gurney at 6 p.m. CST
(7 p.m. EST/2400 GMT) Tuesday, given a few moments to make a
final statement, then put to death by a lethal mix of
chemicals injected into her arm.
Tucker and an accomplice slaughtered two people with a pickax
in 1983, but she now says she is a born-again Christian who
is not a threat to society.
On Monday, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles rejected a
plea to commute -- that is, change -- her sentence to life in
prison, and a federal judge in Austin denied a request for a
stay of execution.
Texas does not have a sentence of life without parole. If
Tucker's sentence were reduced to life, she would be eligible
for parole in 2003.
Her appeal to the Supreme Court centered on the state's
commutation process. Tucker's lawyers contend it is unfair
and unconstitutional, because their client didn't have a
chance to personally plea for her life.
Her appeal noted that all 76 clemency requests in Texas since
1993 have been rejected. Of the 16 condemned inmates who
sought commutations last year, none received even a single
favorable vote from the Texas parole board.
Preparing for execution
On Monday, in preparation for the execution, Tucker was taken
from death row at a prison in Gatesville in central Texas and
flown to Huntsville, 80 miles north of Houston, where the
state's executions are carried out.
She was visiting with her husband, father and sister Tuesday.
Tucker had not been eating since arriving in Huntsville
Monday morning, but had a soft drink and some crackers
Tuesday, prison spokesman David Nunnelee said earlier in the
"She said she was starting to feel a little weak," Nunnelee
said. "But she's been calm and quiet." She slept some
overnight, he said.
Texas death chamber
Tucker's lawyers had said a reprieve was unlikely and were
pinning most of their hopes on the courts. Even with the
Supreme Court ruling, they were still pursuing appeals in
For her last meal, Tucker requested a banana, a peach and a
salad, with either Ranch or Italian dressing. Tucker also
chose to be executed wearing the white prison uniform that
has been her only wardrobe for more than 14 years.
She selected five people, the maximum allowed, to be
witnesses to her death. They included her husband, Dana
Brown, who met her in prison, where he worked as a minister
to inmates, and Ronald Carlson, the brother of Deborah
Thornton, one of her victims.
Carlson opposes her execution and all others.
Thornton's husband Richard and two stepchildren, all of whom
favor Tucker's death, also will watch her die.
Gruesome double murders
Jerry Lynn Dean and Deborah Thornton
In announcing that Tucker's bid for clemency had been
rejected, the chairman of the Texas parole board, Victor
Rodriguez, cited the "horrific" nature of her crime.
Tucker has admitted accompanying a partner in 1983 to the
Houston apartment of Jerry Lynn Dean, 27, to see if they
could cap three days of almost nonstop drug-taking by
stealing Dean's motorcycle.
Once inside, the partner -- Daniel Garrett, then 37 --
started beating Dean with a hammer. When the battered man
began to gurgle, Tucker, then 23, grabbed a 3-foot-long
pickax and repeatedly plunged it into him.
Dean's friend, Thornton, was cowering under sheets in a
corner until the intruders discovered her.
Tucker turned the ax on Thornton to eliminate her as a
witness. In a tape recording played in court, she bragged to
friends that she got sexual thrills out of the attack.
Garrett, also sentenced to death, died in prison of liver
disease in 1993.
Tucker's attempts to spare her own life have been supported
by some Christian groups. This week, Pope John Paul
II appealed for mercy for her.
Reuters contributed to this report.