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Karla Faye Tucker

Karla Faye Tucker

Overview
Karla Faye Tucker was convicted of murder
Murder
Murder is the unlawful killing, with malice aforethought, of another human being, and generally this state of mind distinguishes murder from other forms of unlawful homicide...

 in Texas
Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

 in 1984 and put to death in 1998. She was the first woman to be executed
Capital punishment in the United States
Capital punishment in the United States, in practice, applies only for aggravated murder and more rarely for felony murder. Capital punishment was a penalty at common law, for many felonies, and was enforced in all of the American colonies prior to the Declaration of Independence...

 in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 since 1984
Velma Barfield
Margie Velma Barfield was a serial killer, convicted of six murders. She was the first woman in the United States to be executed after the 1976 resumption of capital punishment and the first since 1962...

, and the first in Texas since 1863
Chipita Rodriguez
Josefa "Chipita" Rodriguez was convicted of murder and hanged in San Patricio County, Texas at the age of 63. A century later, on June 13, 1985, the Texas Legislature passed a resolution noting that Rodriguez did not receive a fair trial...

. Because of her gender and widely publicized conversion to Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

, she inspired an unusually large national and international movement advocating the commutation of her sentence to life imprisonment
Life imprisonment
Life imprisonment is a sentence of imprisonment for a serious crime under which the convicted person is to remain in jail for the rest of his or her life...

, a movement which included a few foreign government officials.

Karla Tucker was born and raised in Houston, Texas
Houston, Texas
Houston is the fourth-largest city in the United States, and the largest city in the state of Texas. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the city had a population of 2.1 million people within an area of . Houston is the seat of Harris County and the economic center of , which is the ...

, the youngest of three sisters.
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Encyclopedia
Karla Faye Tucker was convicted of murder
Murder
Murder is the unlawful killing, with malice aforethought, of another human being, and generally this state of mind distinguishes murder from other forms of unlawful homicide...

 in Texas
Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

 in 1984 and put to death in 1998. She was the first woman to be executed
Capital punishment in the United States
Capital punishment in the United States, in practice, applies only for aggravated murder and more rarely for felony murder. Capital punishment was a penalty at common law, for many felonies, and was enforced in all of the American colonies prior to the Declaration of Independence...

 in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 since 1984
Velma Barfield
Margie Velma Barfield was a serial killer, convicted of six murders. She was the first woman in the United States to be executed after the 1976 resumption of capital punishment and the first since 1962...

, and the first in Texas since 1863
Chipita Rodriguez
Josefa "Chipita" Rodriguez was convicted of murder and hanged in San Patricio County, Texas at the age of 63. A century later, on June 13, 1985, the Texas Legislature passed a resolution noting that Rodriguez did not receive a fair trial...

. Because of her gender and widely publicized conversion to Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

, she inspired an unusually large national and international movement advocating the commutation of her sentence to life imprisonment
Life imprisonment
Life imprisonment is a sentence of imprisonment for a serious crime under which the convicted person is to remain in jail for the rest of his or her life...

, a movement which included a few foreign government officials.

Early life


Karla Tucker was born and raised in Houston, Texas
Houston, Texas
Houston is the fourth-largest city in the United States, and the largest city in the state of Texas. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the city had a population of 2.1 million people within an area of . Houston is the seat of Harris County and the economic center of , which is the ...

, the youngest of three sisters. Her father Larry was a longshoreman on the Gulf of Mexico
Gulf of Mexico
The Gulf of Mexico is a partially landlocked ocean basin largely surrounded by the North American continent and the island of Cuba. It is bounded on the northeast, north and northwest by the Gulf Coast of the United States, on the southwest and south by Mexico, and on the southeast by Cuba. In...

. The marriage was very troubled, and Tucker started smoking with her sisters when she was eight years old. At the age of ten, her parents divorced, and during the divorce proceedings, she learned that she had been the result of an extramarital affair. By age 12, she had turned to drugs and sex. When she was 14, she dropped out of school and followed her mother Carolyn, a rock groupie
Groupie
A groupie is a person who seeks emotional and sexual intimacy with a musician or other celebrity. "Groupie" is derived from group in reference to a musical group, but the word is also used in a more general sense, especially in casual conversation....

, into prostitution and began traveling with the Allman Brothers Band, The Marshall Tucker Band
The Marshall Tucker Band
The Marshall Tucker Band is an American Southern rock band originally from Spartanburg, South Carolina. The band's blend of rock, rhythm and blues, jazz, country, and gospel helped establish the Southern rock genre in the early 1970s...

, and the Eagles. At age 16, she was married briefly to a mechanic named Stephen Griffith. In her early 20s, she began hanging out with bikers, and met a woman named Shawn Dean and her husband Jerry Lynn Dean, who introduced her to a man named Danny Garrett in 1981.

The murders


After having spent the weekend doing drugs with her boyfriend Danny Garrett and their friends, Tucker and Garrett entered Jerry Dean's home around 3:00 am on Monday 14 June 1983 intending to steal Dean's motorcycle. James Leibrant, a friend, went with them to Dean's apartment complex. Leibrant reported that he went looking for Dean's El Camino
Chevrolet El Camino
The Chevrolet El Camino is a coupe utility vehicle produced by the Chevrolet division of General Motors for the 1959–1960 model years in response to the success of its rival, Ford Ranchero. Production resumed for the 1964–1977 model years based on the Chevelle platform, and continued for the...

 while Tucker and Garrett entered the apartment with a set of keys that Tucker claimed Shawn Dean had lost and Tucker had found.

During the burglary, Tucker and Garrett entered Dean's bedroom, where Tucker sat on him. In an effort to protect himself, Dean grabbed Tucker above the elbows, whereupon Garrett intervened. Garrett struck Dean numerous times in the back of the head with a hammer he found on the floor. After hitting Dean, Garrett left the room to carry motorcycle parts out of the apartment. Tucker remained in the bedroom.

The blows Garrett had dealt Dean caused his head to become unhinged from his neck and his breathing passages to fill with fluid. He began making a "gurgling" sound characteristic of this type of injury. Tucker wanted to "stop him from making that noise" and attacked him with a pickax. Garrett then reentered the room and dealt Dean a final blow in the chest.

Garrett left the bedroom again so as to continue loading Dean's motorcycle parts into his Ranchero. Tucker was once again left in the room and only then noticed a woman who had hidden under the bed covers against the wall. The woman, Deborah Thornton, had met Dean at a party earlier that afternoon. Upon discovering Thornton, Tucker grazed her shoulder with the pickax. Thornton and Tucker began to struggle, but Garrett returned and separated them. She proceeded to hit Thornton repeatedly with the pickax and then embedded the axe in her heart. Tucker would later tell friends and testify that she experienced intense multiple orgasms with each blow of the pickaxe.

The next morning, a coworker of Dean's who had been waiting for a ride entered the apartment and discovered the victims' bodies. Investigation led to the arrests of Tucker and Garrett.

Trial


In September 1983, Tucker and Garrett were indicted
Indictment
An indictment , in the common-law legal system, is a formal accusation that a person has committed a crime. In jurisdictions that maintain the concept of felonies, the serious criminal offence is a felony; jurisdictions that lack the concept of felonies often use that of an indictable offence—an...

 and tried separately for the murders. Tucker entered a plea of not guilty and was jailed awaiting trial.

Soon after being imprisoned, Tucker took a Bible from the prison ministry program and read it in her cell. She later recalled, "I didn't know what I was reading. Before I knew it, I was in the middle of my cell floor on my knees. I was just asking God to forgive me."[6] Tucker became a Christian in October 1983. She later married her prison minister, the Reverend Dana Lane Brown, and held her Christian wedding ceremony inside the prison.

Conviction



Though the death penalty was hardly ever sought for female defendants, Tucker, along with Garrett, was sentenced to death in late 1984. (Garrett died in prison of liver disease
Liver disease
Liver disease is a broad term describing any single number of diseases affecting the liver.-Diseases:* Hepatitis, inflammation of the liver, caused mainly by various viruses but also by some poisons , autoimmunity or hereditary conditions...

 in 1993.) She shared her Death Row
Death row
Death row signifies the place, often a section of a prison, that houses individuals awaiting execution. The term is also used figuratively to describe the state of awaiting execution , even in places where no special facility or separate unit for condemned inmates exists.After individuals are found...

 cell at the Mountain View Unit
Mountain View Unit
Mountain View Unit is a Texas Department of Criminal Justice prison housing female offenders in Gatesville, Texas. The unit, with about of land, is located north of central Gatesville on Farm to Market Road 215. The prison is located in a 45 minute driving distance from Waco...

 with her friend Pam Perillo, whose own sentence was eventually commuted to life in prison.

Between 1984 and 1992, requests for a retrial and appeal
Appeal
An appeal is a petition for review of a case that has been decided by a court of law. The petition is made to a higher court for the purpose of overturning the lower court's decision....

s were denied, but on June 22, Tucker requested that her life be spared on the basis that she was under the influence of drugs at the time of the murders, she would not have committed the murders had she not taken drugs and she was now a reformed person. Her plea drew support from abroad and also from some leaders of American conservatism
Conservatism
Conservatism is a political and social philosophy that promotes the maintenance of traditional institutions and supports, at the most, minimal and gradual change in society. Some conservatives seek to preserve things as they are, emphasizing stability and continuity, while others oppose modernism...

. Among those who appealed to the State of Texas on her behalf were Bacre Waly Ndiaye, the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 commissioner on summary and arbitrary executions; the World Council of Churches
World Council of Churches
The World Council of Churches is a worldwide fellowship of 349 global, regional and sub-regional, national and local churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service. It is a Christian ecumenical organization that is based in the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, Switzerland...

; Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II
Blessed Pope John Paul II , born Karol Józef Wojtyła , reigned as Pope of the Catholic Church and Sovereign of Vatican City from 16 October 1978 until his death on 2 April 2005, at of age. His was the second-longest documented pontificate, which lasted ; only Pope Pius IX ...

; Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi
Romano Prodi
Romano Prodi is an Italian politician and statesman. He served as the Prime Minister of Italy, from 17 May 1996 to 21 October 1998 and from 17 May 2006 to 8 May 2008...

; the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich
Newt Gingrich
Newton Leroy "Newt" Gingrich is a U.S. Republican Party politician who served as the House Minority Whip from 1989 to 1995 and as the 58th Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 1999....

; televangelist Pat Robertson
Pat Robertson
Marion Gordon "Pat" Robertson is a media mogul, television evangelist, ex-Baptist minister and businessman who is politically aligned with the Christian Right in the United States....

; and Ron Carlson, the brother of Tucker's murder victim Debbie Thornton. The warden of Texas' Huntsville prison testified that she was a model prisoner and that, after 14 years on death row, she likely had been reformed. The board turned her down on 28 January 1998.

Execution


While on death row, Karla Faye Tucker was incarcerated in the Mountain View Unit
Mountain View Unit
Mountain View Unit is a Texas Department of Criminal Justice prison housing female offenders in Gatesville, Texas. The unit, with about of land, is located north of central Gatesville on Farm to Market Road 215. The prison is located in a 45 minute driving distance from Waco...

 in Gatesville, Texas
Gatesville, Texas
Gatesville is a city in and the county seat of Coryell County in Central Texas, United States of America. The population was 15,591 at the 2000 census...

. She became Texas Department of Criminal Justice
Texas Department of Criminal Justice
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice is a department of the government of the state of Texas. The TDCJ is responsible for statewide criminal justice for adult offenders, including managing offenders in state prisons, state jails and private correctional facilities, funding and certain...

 (TDCJ) Death Row #777.
On February 2nd 1998, state authorities took Tucker from the unit in Gatesville and flew her on a TDCJ aircraft, transporting her to the Huntsville Unit in Huntsville
Huntsville, Texas
Huntsville is a city in and the county seat of Walker County, Texas, United States. The population was 35,508 at the 2010 census. It is the center of the Huntsville micropolitan area....

. Karla Faye Tucker's last meal
Last meal
The last meal is a customary part of a condemned prisoner's last day. Often, the day of, or before, the appointed time of execution, the prisoner receives a last meal, as well as religious rites, if they desire. In the United States, inmates generally may not ask for an alcoholic drink...

 request consisted of a banana, a peach, and a garden salad with ranch dressing.

She selected five people to watch her die, including Thornton's husband Richard and his two stepchildren, who supported the death penalty, and Thornton's brother Ronald Carlson, who opposed the execution and had been converted by her faith after visiting Tucker on death row. Her last words were:
She was executed by lethal injection
Lethal injection
Lethal injection is the practice of injecting a person with a fatal dose of drugs for the express purpose of causing the immediate death of the subject. The main application for this procedure is capital punishment, but the term may also be applied in a broad sense to euthanasia and suicide...

 the next day. As the lethal chemicals were being administered she was praising Jesus Christ. Eight minutes after receiving injection, she was pronounced dead at 6:45pm. She was the first woman executed in the State of Texas in 135 years.

She is buried at Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery in Houston.{http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=2444}

Aftermath


In the year following her execution, conservative commentator Tucker Carlson
Tucker Carlson
Tucker Swanson McNear Carlson is an American political news correspondent and conservative commentator for the Fox News Channel...

 questioned Governor George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

 about how the Board of Pardons and Parole had arrived at the determination on her clemency plea. Carlson alleged that Bush, alluding to a televised interview which Karla Faye Tucker had given to talk show
Talk show
A talk show or chat show is a television program or radio program where one person discuss various topics put forth by a talk show host....

 host Larry King
Larry King
Lawrence Harvey "Larry" King is an American television and radio host whose work has been recognized with awards including two Peabodys and ten Cable ACE Awards....

, smirked and spoke mockingly about her. Bush himself later denied this. A full length movie was released in 2004 about the life of Tucker entitled "Forevermore" starring actress Karen Jezek.

International reactions


Tucker gained international attention because she would be the first woman to be executed in Texas since the Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 and the first in the United States since 1984. Italian President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro
Oscar Luigi Scalfaro
Oscar Luigi Scalfaro , Italian politician and magistrate, was the ninth President of the Italian Republic from 1992 to 1999, and is currently a senator for life...

 noted in a public speech that capital punishment supporters outside a Texas prison had cheered when Tucker was executed. "And we are on the threshold of 2,000 years of Christ!" he exclaimed. In England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, Bishop Richard Harries of the Diocese of Oxford reported that a Gospel
Gospel music
Gospel music is music that is written to express either personal, spiritual or a communal belief regarding Christian life, as well as to give a Christian alternative to mainstream secular music....

 singer's rendition of "Amazing Grace
Amazing Grace
"Amazing Grace" is a Christian hymn with words written by the English poet and clergyman John Newton , published in 1779. With a message that forgiveness and redemption are possible regardless of the sins people commit and that the soul can be delivered from despair through the mercy of God,...

" was shouted down by cries of "Kill the bitch!" from the pro-death penalty crowd that gathered outside of the prison.

Depictions


Music
  • The Tomorrowpeople
    The Tomorrowpeople
    The Tomorrowpeople were a psychedelic rock band based in Dallas, TX featuring former members of Brutal Juice and Toadies.They took their name from a cult British science fiction show that aired on ITV in the early '70s....

     (1999). "America's Deathrow Sweetheart" (Gibson/Powerchurch) on the album Marijuana Beach [Olivia Records]
  • Indigo Girls
    Indigo Girls
    The Indigo Girls are an American folk rock music duo, consisting of Amy Ray and Emily Saliers. They met in elementary school and began performing together as high school students in Decatur, Georgia, part of the Atlanta metropolitan area...

     (1999). "Faye Tucker" (Ray) on the album Come on Now Social
    Come On Now Social
    Come on Now Social is the seventh studio album by the Indigo Girls, released in 1999.-Track listing:#"Go" – 4:05#"Soon Be to Nothing" – 4:29#"Gone Again" – 3:27#"Trouble" – 4:51#"Sister" – 4:58...

    [Epic Records]
  • Richard Dobson
    Richard Dobson
    Richard Dobson is an American singer/songwriter.He was born in Tyler, Texas. He spent time in the 1970s with Townes Van Zandt, Mickey White, Rex "Wrecks" Bell, Guy Clark, Steve Earle, Rodney Crowell and "Skinny" Dennis Sanchez....

     (1999). "Ballad of Chipita and Karla Faye" (Richard Dobson) on the album Global Village Garage [R&T Musikproduktion]
  • Mary Gauthier
    Mary Gauthier
    Mary Gauthier is an American folk singer-songwriter.-Life and career:Gauthier was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. Given up at birth by a mother she never knew, Gauthier was adopted by an Italian Catholic couple in Thibodaux, Louisiana...

     (2001). "Karla Faye" (Mary Gauthier/Crit Harmon) on the album Drag Queens in Limousines [Munich Records BV]
  • David Knopfler
    David Knopfler
    David Knopfler is a British singer-songwriter, rhythm guitarist, pianist and cofounder of the critically acclaimed rock band Dire Straits....

     (2002). "Karla Faye" (David Knopfler) on the album Wishbones [Paris Records/Edel GmbH/Koch Entertainment]

Theatrical plays, films, and television
  • Last Dance (1996), Touchstone Pictures, a film based on her story starring Sharon Stone
    Sharon Stone
    Sharon Vonne Stone is an American actress, film producer, and former fashion model. She achieved international recognition for her role in the erotic thriller Basic Instinct...

    , inadvertently predicting the actual conclusion.
  • A Question of Mercy: The Karla Faye Tucker Story (1998), TV Documentary directed by Rob Feldman.
  • Dead Woman Walking: The Karla Faye Tucker Story (1999), American Justice TV Episode Bill Kurtis
    Bill Kurtis
    Bill Kurtis is an American television journalist, producer, narrator, and news anchor. He is also the current host of A&E crime and news documentary shows, including Investigative Reports, American Justice, and Cold Case Files...

    /Towers Productions
  • Crossed Over (2002), Film starring Jennifer Jason Leigh
    Jennifer Jason Leigh
    Jennifer Jason Leigh is an American film and stage actress, best known for her roles in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Single White Female, Last Exit to Brooklyn, Georgia and Short Cuts...

     and Diane Keaton
    Diane Keaton
    Diane Keaton is an American film actress, director, producer, and screenwriter. Keaton began her career on stage, and made her screen debut in 1970...

    .
  • MacNeil, R. (2005) Karla. Produced by Long Wharf Theatre, New Haven, CT.
  • Karla Faye Tucker: Forevermore (2004), Film directed by Helen Gibson.


External links