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Karla Faye TUCKER






A.K.A.: "Pickax Killer"
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robbery
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: June 13, 1983
Date of arrest: July 20, 1983
Date of birth: November 18, 1959
Victims profile: Jerry Lynn Dean (male, 27) and Deborah Thornton (female, 32)
Method of murder: Beating with a pickax 28 times
Location: Harris County, Texas, USA
Status: Executed by lethal injection in Texas on February 3, 1998

photo gallery



Between 2:30 and 4:30 a.m. on June 13, 1983, Tucker, Danny Garrett, and James Leibrant left Tucker's residence after some "partying."

Tucker told accomplice Leibrant she wanted to go over to Jerry Lynn Dean's apartment to collect some money and intimidate him a little. Tucker secretly took the keys from Dean's wife, Shawn. Two weeks before, Tucker had talked about "offing" Dean.

Tucker later related that when she and Garrett entered the apartment bedroom, she put a pickax to Dean's head and Dean began begging for his life. Tucker struck him with the pickax 28 times, and expressed that every time she struck Dean she received sexual gratification.

Deborah Thornton was hiding under some sheets in the bedroom, and because the lights were on and Dean had said Tucker's name several times, Tucker and Garrett decided to kill her as well.

Leibrant testified that, after he was called into the apartment by Garrett, he heard a gurgling noise in the bedroom, walked back to the bedroom, and witnessed Tucker pull the pickax out of a body, smile, and hit it again. Leibrant then left the scene, but later helped Garrett dispose of Dean's car later that evening.

The bodies were discovered by a co-worker who came to check up on Dean when he did not show up for work that morning. The pickax was found lodged in the chest of Deborah Thornton.

Tucker's execution created a media frenzy which included nightly reports from Geraldo, an interview on CNN Larry King Live, and live nationwide coverage from the prison at her execution. Her outgoing personality and religious conversion on death row even prompted televangelist Pat Robertson to request a commutation.

She was the first woman to be executed in Texas since 1863, and only the second woman to be executed in the United States since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976.


Texas Attorney General Press Release

Tuesday, February 3, 1998

Fact Sheet on Karla Faye Tucker

Texas Attorney General Dan Morales offers the following information on Karla Faye Tucker, who is scheduled to be executed after 6 p.m. Tuesday, February 3, 1998:

The state's evidence at the guilt and innocence phase established that Tucker murdered Jerry Lynn Dean during the commission of the offense of burglary of a habitation. The evidence revealed the following:

Between 2:30 and 4:30 a.m. on June 13, 1983, Tucker, Danny Garrett, and James Leibrant left Tucker's residence after some "partying" which included the ingestion of pills, marijuana, speed, and alcohol. Tucker was "pretty well on her way" (intoxicated due to the use of alcohol and drugs), but could walk, talk, and carry on a conversation.

Tucker told accomplice Leibrant she wanted to go over to Jerry Lynn Dean's apartment to collect some money and intimidate him a little. They talked about taking some things if Dean wouldn't pay the money, specifically a motorcycle, a TV, and a stereo. Tucker got the keys to the apartment from Dean's wife, Shawn, secretly taking them but convincing Shawn that they were lost. Tucker had also talked about "offing" Dean about two weeks before the offense.

Tucker later related to her sister Kari Dean Garrett [hereinafter referred to as Kari] that when she and Garrett entered the apartment bedroom, she put a pickax to Dean's head and "told him not to move, m______ucker, or you're dead." Dean began begging for his life, and Tucker started to strike him with the pickax. Tucker expressed that every time she struck Dean she received sexual gratification. There was a girl hiding under some sheets in the bedroom, and because the lights were on and Dean had said Tucker's name several times, Tucker and Garrett decided to kill her as well.

Leibrant testified that, after he was called into the apartment by Garrett, he heard a gurgling noise in the bedroom, walked back to the bedroom, and witnessed Tucker pull the pickax out of a body, smile, and hit it again.

Leibrant then left the scene and walked for about an hour before he called Ronnie Burrell to come pick him up. Both Garrett and Tucker were angry with him for leaving the scene, but to make amends he helped Garrett dispose of Dean's El Camino later that evening. Leibrant was not offered any deals for his accomplice testimony except that the judge hearing his cases would be made aware of his cooperation.

The morning after the incident, Tucker showed up at the home of Douglas McAndrew Garrett, (hereinafter referred to as Doug), Garrett's brother, at approximately 6:30 a.m. in a blue El Camino.

After unloading a motorcycle frame from the back of the El Camino, she said, "We offed Jerry Dean last night." She told him that Garrett had hit him with a hammer but she had picked him, receiving sexual gratification with every stroke.

She handed him Dean's wallet which Doug immediately burned in an ashtray. Although Doug insisted that they remove the motorcycle parts from his garage at that time, he later allowed his brother to store some of the parts with him.

He disposed of the parts before going to the police, but led the police to them at a later date. Doug subsequently called J.C. Mosier, a family friend who was a detective in the homicide division, and gave him Leibrant's name. Doug later assisted the police in obtaining a taped conversation of Tucker and Garrett discussing the murders.

The bodies were discovered by a co-worker of Dean's, Gregory Scott Traver, the morning of June 13 after Dean did not arrive to drive Traver to work. Traver found Dean's body in the spare bedroom along with the body of a girl with a pickax "in her heart." Traver also noticed that Dean's motorcycle was missing and the television had been moved.

On the evening of the June 13, Tucker and Garrett were watching television when the news came on with a story about the murders. Tucker and Garrett laughed and giggled and said they were famous. Leibrant was called into the house so he could watch the news report as well.

Examination of the bodies revealed that Dean had been struck in the head and had several stab wounds. There were a total of 28 stab wounds, 20 of which could have been fatal, along with the fatal skull fracture.

Dean's female companion, Deborah Ruth Thorton, also died from multiple stab wounds to the chest and stab wounds and blunt trauma to the back. A pickax like the one recovered at the scene could have caused the wounds that killed both of the decedents.


Tucker was indicted in Harris County, Texas, for the murder of Jerry Lynn Dean, while in the course of committing and attempting to commit robbery. After Tucker entered a plea of not guilty in the 180th District Court, the jury found her guilty of capital murder on April 19, 1984.

On April 25, after a separate hearing on the issue of punishment, the jury answered affirmatively the special issues submitted pursuant to the former provisions of Article 37.071 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure (repealed effective September 1, 1991). In accordance with state law, the trial court sentenced Tucker to death by lethal injection.

On June 29, the 180th District Court overruled Tucker's motion for a new trial. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the conviction and sentence upon direct appeal. Tucker v. State, 771 S.W.2d 523 (Tex.Crim.App. 1988).

Tucker's motion for rehearing was denied on January 11, 1989, but the Court of Criminal Appeals stayed issuance of the mandate until April 11, 1989. Tucker's petition for writ of certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court was denied along with her application for stay of mandate on June 26, 1989. The mandate of the Court of Criminal Appeals was issued on July 6, 1989.

Tucker filed an application for state habeas relief on December 15, 1989, and she filed an amended petition on January 24, 1992. On April 29, 1992, the convicting court entered findings of fact and conclusions of law, and on May 29, 1992, it set Tucker's execution date for June 30, 1992. The Court of Criminal Appeals granted a stay of execution on June 22, 1992, pending an evidentiary hearing on three of Tucker's claims. On January 27, 1995, the Court of Criminal Appeals denied relief based on the findings and conclusions of the trial court, which it found to be supported by the record. Ex parte Tucker, Application no. 21,159-01 (Tex.Crim.App. Jan. 27, 1995).

Tucker's original federal habeas petition was filed on August 1, 1995, and she was given 60 days in which to file an amended petition. No amended petition was filed and the Director responded to the original habeas petition on February 5, 1996, with a motion for summary judgment and answer with brief in support thereof. Tucker filed a traverse and opposition to summary judgment on April 15, 1996. On July 31, 1996, the district court granted the Director's motion for summary judgment and entered its final order denying relief. Tucker's motion to amend judgment was denied on December 20, 1996. On January 17, Tucker filed a notice of appeal and application for a certificate of probable cause (CPC), which was denied by the district court on January 24, 1997.

Tucker filed an application for certificate of appealability and supporting memorandum on March 17, 1997. On June 3, 1997, without requiring a response from the state, the court of appeals issued an opinion order denying the application. This initial opinion, however, relied in part on the amended habeas standards effected by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), and the Court in Lindh v. Murphy, 117 S.Ct. 2059 (1997), subsequently concluded that the amended standards would not apply to cases such as Tucker's that were pending at the time of the AEDPA's enactment. As a consequence, the court of appeals treated Tucker's suggestion for rehearing en banc as a petition for panel rehearing, withdrew its prior opinion, and issued an opinion denying a certificate of "appealability" or CPC under the pre-AEDPA standards. Tucker v. Scott, 115 F.3d at 278. The Court denied certiorari on December 8, 1997. Tucker v. Johnson, 118 S.Ct. 605 (1997).

On December 18, 1997, the convicting court scheduled Tucker's execution for February 3, 1998. On January 20, 1998, Tucker filed a successive state writ application and request for stay of execution in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. The Court of Criminal Appeals dismissed the application as an abuse of the writ pursuant to Article 11.071 § 5 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. Tucker's petition for writ of certiorari, filed in the U.S. Supreme Court on January 29, 1998, was denied by the court on February 3, 1998. Tucker's request for clemency was filed with the Board of Pardons and Paroles on January 22, 1998, and was denied on February 2, 1998. Also on February 2, 1998, Tucker filed a 21 U.S.C. §1983 action and request for stay of execution in federal district court and a motion for leave to file a successive federal habeas petition in the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. The request for stay was denied in the federal district court case, and the 5th Circuit action was also denied. On February 3, 1998, Tucker filed a third writ of certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court, which is still pending.


Tucker had no prior convictions. However, the state did present evidence at the punishment phase concerning Tucker's prior violent acts, which included a previous altercation with Dean during which she punched him in the face while he had glasses on, forcing him to go to the hospital to have glass removed from his eye. Tucker also admitted a history of drug use and prostitution.


Evidence indicated that Tucker had ingested various drugs and alcohol immediately prior to commission of the instant offense.


Karla Faye Tucker (November 18, 1959 – February 3, 1998) was convicted of murder in Texas in 1984 and put to death fourteen years later. She was the first woman to be executed in the United States since 1984, and the first in Texas since 1863. Because of her gender and widely publicized conversion to Christianity, she inspired an unusually large national and international movement advocating the commutation of her sentence to life imprisonment, a movement which included a few foreign government officials.

Early life

Karla Tucker was born and raised in Houston, Texas, the youngest of three sisters. Her father Larry was a longshoreman on the Gulf of Mexico. The marriage of her parents was very troubled, and Tucker started smoking with her sisters when she was eight years old. At the age of 10, 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, into prostitution and began traveling with the Allman Brothers Band, The Marshall Tucker Band, 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 3am 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 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 pickaxe. Garrett then re-entered 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 pickaxe. Thornton and Tucker began to struggle, but Garrett returned and separated them. Tucker proceeded to hit Thornton repeatedly with the pickaxe 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 co-worker 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.


In September 1983, Tucker and Garrett were indicted 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." 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.


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 in 1993.) She shared her Death Row cell at the Mountain View Unit with her friend Pam Perillo, whose own sentence was eventually commuted to life in prison.

Between 1984 and 1992, requests for a retrial and appeals 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. Among those who appealed to the State of Texas on her behalf were Bacre Waly Ndiaye, the United Nations commissioner on summary and arbitrary executions; the World Council of Churches; Pope John Paul II; Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi; the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich; televangelist Pat Robertson; and Ron Carlson, the brother of Tucker's murder victim Debbie Thornton. The warden of Texas's 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.


While on death row, Karla Faye Tucker was incarcerated in the Mountain View Unit in Gatesville, Texas. She became Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) Death Row #777.

On February 2 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. Karla Faye Tucker's last meal 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:

"Yes sir, I would like to say to all of you — the Thornton family and Jerry Dean’s family — that I am so sorry. I hope God will give you peace with this.(She looked at her husband) Baby, I love you. (She looked at Ronald Carlson) Ron, give Peggy a hug for me. (She looked at all present weeping and smiling) Everybody has been so good to me. I love all of you very much. I am going to be face to face with Jesus now. Warden Baggett, thank all of you so much. You have been so good to me. I love all of you very much. I will see you all when you get there. I will wait for you."

She was executed by lethal injection 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 CST. She was the first woman executed in the State of Texas in 135 years.

She is buried at Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery in Houston.


In the year following her execution, conservative commentator Tucker Carlson questioned Governor George W. Bush 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 host Larry King, 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.


Tucker Dies After Apologizing

Despite Legal Blitz, Woman Executed for Pickax Slayings

By Kathy Walt - Houston Chronicle

February 3, 1998

HUNTSVILLE -- Karla Faye Tucker, the 38-year-old pickax murderer who charmed television audiences worldwide with her coquettish smile and talk of Jesus, was executed Tuesday despite an all-out legal blitz to spare her life.

Apologizing to the family members of her victims, Tucker smiled and told her friends and relatives, "I love all of you very much. I'm going to be face to face with Jesus now." With a needle of solution in each arm, she gasped twice slightly as the lethal drugs took effect, then she groaned. "I love you, Karla," her sister, Kari Tucker Weeks, cried out.

Tucker, who confessed her guilt in the slayings of a man and woman in Houston 15 years ago, was pronounced dead at 6:45 p.m., some eight minutes after the drugs began flowing through her veins.

She was the first woman to be executed in Texas since 1863 and only the second nationally since 1984. She also was the first Texas prisoner to be executed this year.

Tucker went to her death in a frenzy of media coverage, with an estimated 200 reporters from around the world posted outside the state prison system's Walls Unit in downtown Huntsville.

A few hundred capital punishment abolitionists stood vigil in protest while death penalty advocates sparred verbally with them. It was in the final months leading up to her death that Tucker achieved the fame she once told her ex-husband was her destiny. "She always said that someday she would be famous," Stephen Griffith told the Houston Chronicle on Monday.

Griffith, who was married to Tucker for six years, did not attend her execution. Although Tucker had pleaded to Gov. George W. Bush and the state Board of Pardons and Paroles for mercy, she had also maintained that her gender should not be an issue in deciding clemency. She said she had become a born-again Christian shortly after her arrest in 1983.

Among those witnessing her death was Richard "Tony" Thornton, the husband of victim Deborah Thornton, who had been angrily outspoken about his desire to see Tucker executed. "Make no mistake, this is not Karla Faye Tucker's day," he said prior to the execution. "This is Deborah Ruth Davis Thornton's day."

He was accompanied in the witness room to the execution chamber by his daughter, Katheryn Thornton, and William Joseph Davis, Deborah Thornton's son from a previous marriage. State prison officials said they were not contacted by any relatives of Jerry Lynn Dean, Tucker's other victim, so no witnesses representing his family were present. "Here she comes, baby doll. She's all yours," Thornton said as Tucker's injection began. "The world's a better place."

Sitting in a wheelchair, the disabled Thornton was at eye level with Tucker, lying strapped to the gurney. At one point, Thornton referred to Tucker's current husband, a prison minister and car dealer, and remarked, "So now Dana Brown gets to write his book."

Brown was among Tucker's personal witnesses, along with her sister, Kari Weeks; her lead attorney George "Mac" Secrest of Houston; friend Jackie Oncken, wife of Henry Oncken who had been one of Tucker's court-appointed attorneys before later becoming a U.S. attorney in Houston; and Ronald Carlson, the brother of Deborah Thornton, who had been outspoken in opposing Tucker's execution because of her purported religious conversion.

Brown, who married Tucker three years ago, said he had not decided where she will be buried. Her body was taken to an undisclosed funeral home. "Her gain today was our loss," he said after her death, "someone that literally reached thousands of people for Jesus Christ and probably will continue through her testimony.

Even though she cried out for forgiveness, God gave her just what she needed. That was love. "We've all made mistakes in our lives. Who are we to say when a person is past redemption? And that's what we're saying when we kill people, human beings."

The final roadblocks to Tucker's execution were cleared about 6:20 p.m. when Bush rejected her plea for a 30-day delay. His decision was not unexpected. "Karla Faye Tucker has acknowledged she is guilty of a horrible crime. She was convicted and sentenced by a jury of her peers," Bush said, reading a statement at the Capitol. "The role of the state is to enforce our laws and to make sure all individuals are treated fairly under those laws. The courts, including the United States Supreme Court, have reviewed the legal issues in this case, and therefore, I will not grant a 30-day delay. "May God bless Karla Faye Tucker and may God bless her victims and their families."

Earlier in the day, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected three challenges to Tucker's death sentence under criminal and federal civil rights laws. There was no dissent and no comment by the justices. In addition, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans turned away her attorneys' efforts to start another round of federal challenges.

State courts also rejected her contention that the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles violated the state's Open Meetings Act by not holding a public hearing or public vote in her clemency appeal.

Portrayed by some as the prodigal daughter who finally found peace and redemption in a Harris County Jail cell shortly after her arrest, Tucker and her lawyers for the past several weeks waged a massive legal and international public relations appeal for clemency.

Long a self-admitted ham who had always enjoyed mugging for a camera -- even during her wild days as a drug-abusing, motorcycle-riding, hot-headed prostitute -- Tucker, her crime and her punishment have become the conundrum in the debate over capital punishment.

While her crime still ranks as one of the grisliest in Houston history, her supporters insisted that her Christian rebirth and her efforts to reach beyond her barred prison cell to warn youngsters of the dangers of her former lifestyle were proof she was no longer a danger to society.

But those who insisted she should die have maintained that no matter the sometimes-angelic smiling face and twinkling eyes, no amount of changed personality could overcome the horrific facts of her crime.

Tucker and her then-lover Daniel Garrett were condemned by a Houston jury in 1984 for the June 1983 slaying of Dean, a 27-year-old former cable installer. Dean was hacked more than 20 times with one of his own tools -- a 3-foot-long pickax -- as he lay sleeping in his northeast Houston apartment.

The motive, Tucker later explained, was to settle a grudge she had against Dean for once parking his leaking motorcycle in her living room and for destroying the only picture she had of herself with her mother.

Also killed was Deborah Thornton, 32, an office worker who had fought with her husband and stormed off, only to meet Dean at a party and go home with him. She was lying in bed with Dean when Tucker and Garrett showed up and began their attack. Thornton was hacked more than 20 times, the pickax left embedded in her chest, but neither Dean nor Garrett was ever tried specifically in Thornton's death.

Tucker, who was a 23-year-old divorcee, would later claim that she experienced sexual pleasure every time she plunged the heavy ax into her victims.

Garrett, 37, also was sentenced to die for the crime, but he died of liver disease in 1993 while awaiting retrial in connection with Dean's death. Tucker testified against Garrett at his trial, and after she did so, Harris County authorities dropped the second murder charge against her in connection with Thornton's slaying.

Although she pleaded not guilty, once she was convicted, she never again denied the murders, which she said occurred after a weekend of bingeing on drugs and alcohol. Although she claimed her mother introduced her to drugs and urged her into prostitution, she had said, at least in recent weeks, that she no longer blames her mother.

Indeed, in her letter pleading to Bush to spare her life, she said, "Justice and law demand my life for the two innocent lives I brutally murdered that night." "If my execution is the only thing, the final act that can fulfill the demand for restitution and justice," she wrote, "then I accept that."


Texas Executes Tucker

By Rebecca Leung -

February 3, 1998

Karla Faye Tucker was executed by lethal injection tonight, gasping and coughing twice before she was pronounced dead at 6:45 p.m. Before she was executed, she smiled, asked forgiveness from her victim’s husband and thanked her family, saying “I love you all very much.” It took her eight minutes to die.

Gov. George W. Bush refused to grant Tucker a one-time temporary reprieve, something he has also not done for the 59 men executed during his three years in office. “Like many touched by this case, I have sought guidance through prayer. I have concluded judgment about the heart and soul of an individual on death row are best left to a higher authority,” Bush said.

Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, 432 people have been executed nationwide—Tucker is the second woman to be put to death since then.

Case Attracted Worldwide Following

Hundreds gathered outside the prison to protest the execution, carrying signs reading “Execution Is Not the Solution” and “I Oppose the Death Penalty.” Death penalty supporters also showed up, cheering when word came that the execution would proceed. “Karla Faye Tucker will die today,” said Richard Thornton, the husband of one of the victims. “My family and I are very happy about that.”

When the news reached the crowd that Tucker had been executed, a cheer rose from death penalty advocates as some sang “Na Na Na Na...Say Goodbye.” Lisa Jackson, who opposes the death penalty and traveled from Michigan, was disheartened by the boisterous reaction. “I think God is sovereign,” she said. “He gives life and he takes life.”

The Supreme Court turned down a stay of execution this afternoon, and the Texas parole board also rejected efforts to save Tucker, whose clemency request raised hard questions about the treatment of women and men in the justice system.

First Female Execution Since 1863

Tucker was flown Monday from the female death row at a prison in Gatesville to Huntsville, 80 miles north of Houston, where the state’s executions are carried out. The Texas Board of Pardons and Parole was lobbied by religious broadcaster Pat Robertson, Amnesty International and even the pope, who wanted to give her a life sentence without parole.

The board unanimously rejected 16 similar requests last year. Texas, which is responsible for about a third of the executions nationwide, put to death a record 37 death row inmates in 1997. But the state hasn’t executed a woman since the Civil War, when Chipita Rodriguez was hanged for killing a horse trader.

Strange Bedfellows Rally to Her Cause

In 1983, Tucker and her boyfriend, Daniel Ryan Garrett, plunged a pickax at least 20 times into the bodies of Jerry Lynn Dean and Deborah Thornton.

Tucker was taped saying the killings enthralled her to the point of sexual ecstasy. Tucker never claimed to be innocent, but said she should be spared the death penalty because she embraced Christianity and was content to spend her life in prison doing God’s work. “Certainly you can’t say that brutally murdering two people is good. It’s not,” said Tucker to ABCNEWS’ Dean Reynolds. “But afterwards, what came from that in me was good.”

Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition and usually a supporter of the death penalty, said the 38-year-old former teenage prostitute, drug user and rock band groupie should be spared to continue preaching God’s word to others in prison.

His television program, The 700 Club, broadcast Tucker’s last prison-cell interview today. “There should always be a place for mercy,” said Tucker in her final interview on The 700 Club. “Life is precious, and if we believe life is precious in abortion, or in mercy killing, shouldn’t we believe life is precious in the death penalty?” Pope John Paul appealed for a “humanitarian gesture,” as he has at least a half dozen times for other inmates on death row in America. Her cause also attracted support from around the world, with appeals for clemency from the United Nations and the European Parliament.

A Plea for Mercy

Dismissed as an “aberration of the true female offender” by women’s rights organizations such as the National Center for Women in Prison, Tucker has nevertheless become a potent symbol of how the death penalty is applied across gender lines. But given the recent history of the Texas parole board, even a single vote from the 18-member panel in favor of clemency for a condemned murderer would be unusual.

According to parole board chairman Victor Rodriguez, the board voted 16-0 against commutation in Tucker’s case. “There is no question as to their vote.…I myself have no quarrel with the decision to deny Karla Faye Tucker’s request on all fronts this morning,” Rodriguez told a packed news conference in Texas on Monday.

Gender Brought More Attention

Interviews with Tucker have been broadcast on television nationwide, bringing much attention to her plea for mercy. During the 12 months ending June 30, 1997, the number of women under the jurisdiction of state and federal prison authorities grew from 73,565 to 78,067.

Women accounted for 6.4 percent of all prisoners nationwide. “Her gender has made this case more prominent, more closely examined. It has made her more personal, more of a human being to the public,” said Richard Dieter, director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a Washington-based advocacy group. “Thinking of this person as a flesh-and-blood human being, a face, a person, has given us reasons why we should think twice of executing her.”

However, some say that if Tucker were a man instead of a woman, she would never get such sympathy. “For years, women’s groups have been screaming equal rights, so if you do the crime, you deserve equal punishment,” said Janice Sager, founder of Texans for Equal Justice, a Houston-based victims support group that held a memorial service outside the prison gates. “She should be accountable. It doesn’t matter if she is a woman. Her victims won’t get a second chance.”

Equal Punishment for Equal Crime

Similar claims of conversions by male prisoners, however, have often been disregarded as a right to clemency. “There have been other men who have also had very sincere religious experiences, and that has not availed them anything when it came time to carry out the sentence,” said Lynn Hecht Schafran, a lawyer with the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund. “You can’t just do it because she is a woman.”

But David Dow, professor of law at the University of Houston, says that race and gender are important factors in Tucker’s case. “Of the people who have been executed since 1982, half have found religion, half are either black or Hispanic, and most of them are men. But most of them don’t have the advantage of being physically attractive or articulate as she is, which hurts their case, ” said Dow, who has written on Tucker and the death penalty. “Tucker’s supporters made an exception for her because they saw her as a human being. The question we should be asking ourselves is why so many people saw Tucker’s humanity but refuse to see it in so many others.” (The Associated Press contributed to this report)


Execution May Haunt Texas

Tucker Case Llikely to Bring Unprecedented Scrutiny

By Kathy Walt - Houston Chronicle

December 14, 1997

Conjure the image: An attractive, 38-year-old woman is strapped to a gurney in Texas' execution chamber, her dark, shoulder-length curls splayed across the antiseptic white sheet that covers the hard, cold deathbed. Her charcoal-colored eyes are transfixed ethereally while she utters her final entreaty to the God who she says miraculously transformed her in jail.

As a lethal cocktail pumps through her veins, she may involuntarily arch upward -- straining against the leather straps -- and gasp or cough a couple of times before her final breath is expelled in a matter of seconds.

That, critics contend, is an image that will haunt Texans if Karla Faye Tucker, a condemned killer from Houston, is executed early next year.

Contrast that mental portrait of Tucker with the one that state's attorneys, victims' rights groups and others say should be replayed in people's minds: A wild-eyed, 23-year-old prostitute -- after a weekend orgy of methadone, heroin, Dilaudid, Valium, Placidyls, Somas, Wygesics, Percodan, Mandrax, marijuana, rum and tequila -- smiles maniacally at 27-year-old Jerry Lynn Dean. It ticked her off that he once parked his oil-leaking motorcycle in her living room.

She takes her first swing with a pickax. Flesh tears. Blood spurts. Bones crack as the 3-foot-long tool thuds first against Dean and later against his companion, 32-year-old Deborah Thornton. By the time the screams end, Tucker and her accomplice will have hacked their victims more than 20 times.

The June 1983 murder was one of the grisliest in Houston history, and Tucker could well become the first woman to be executed in Texas since the 1860s. Her accomplice, Daniel Ryan Garrett, also was sentenced to die for his part in the crime. His case was sent back for retrial on appeal, but he died of liver disease in 1993 while waiting for a new trial, still behind bars.

In a state with the most active execution chamber in the nation -- 37 death sentences have been carried out this year alone and 144 since 1982 -- Tucker's case is likely to bring unprecedented scrutiny on Texas and, at least temporarily, refuel the debate over capital punishment. Already, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has been besieged by requests from media around the world wanting to interview the woman who once bragged to her sister that she was sexually gratified each time she axed her victims.

Death penalty opponents, religious leaders and thousands of other people -- mostly outside Texas -- are expected to mount an intense campaign in the coming weeks to try to persuade Gov. George W. Bush to commute Tucker's sentence to life imprisonment. Democrat Garry Mauro -- who is challenging Bush's re-election bid -- said he's glad he does not have to face the issue. "Watching Governor Bush wrestle with that decision, that's the only thing I can think of right now, the only reason I can think of right now that I'm glad I'm not governor," Mauro said. "I do not know what I would do. It's a tough issue. I wish him well on coming to a resolution on it."

Televangelist Pat Robertson told 60 Minutes in a recent interview that Tucker has his support and that if Bush "lets this sweet woman of God die, he's a man who shows no mercy." But that sentiment is not necessarily shared by conservative Christians in Texas.

Texas Christian Coalition President Dick Weinhold said he not only personally disagrees with Robertson but knows of no organized effort to spare Tucker's life. "This case has two main themes," Weinhold said. "One is compassion, and one is consequences. "I have a lot of compassion for Karla Faye Tucker. She seems to have strong testimony. Her salvation and conversion seem to be ... very genuine. And her life seems to really have undergone a transformation. So I'm delighted. That is great. "The consequences are that she committed a heinous act. There were two individuals that were murdered. The consequences of her crime call for her death. I don't believe the compassion side should overrule the consequences in this case." "As a Christian, I'm always excited when other people come to Christ, whether it's in a jailhouse or on Wall Street. But I think there's still consequences for our actions.

Dudley Sharp of the Houston-based victims' rights group Justice for All said he expects "religious leaders from all over the world -- not just the pope -- will be putting pressure on the governor" to spare Tucker's life.

For clues about how the coming weeks might play in Texas, rewind to North Carolina, 1984. It was there that "Death Row Granny" Margie Velma Barfield, a born-again Christian who was posthumously praised by Billy Graham for her impact on other prisoners, became the first woman to be put to death in the modern era of the capital punishment.

The portly, bespectacled 52-year-old private nurse and former Sunday school teacher was convicted of lacing her boyfriend's food with rat poison. She later admitted to poisoning three others, including her mother. Her case also became a last-minute political issue in a tough U.S. Senate election in which liberal Democrat Gov. Jim Hunt challenged Republican incumbent Sen. Jesse Helms.

Political analysts said Hunt was doomed to be hurt politically regardless of what he did. Had he commuted Barfield's sentence, he risked alienating his conservative pro-death penalty constituency. Some analysts said at the time that his refusal to show compassion toward the woman may have persuaded liberal, anti-death penalty voters to stay away from the polls.

Joe Freeman Britt, the former prosecutor who sent Barfield to death row, remembers the pressure that mounted in North Carolina. "There were all these Velma Barfield support groups that grew up all around the nation, all over North Carolina, European countries -- England, France, Finland," Britt recalled. "Everybody involved in the case got tons of letters every day about it from all over the world. That then generated a certain political pressure in the case."

But unlike Tucker's jailhouse conversion, Britt said, Barfield had always professed to being a God-fearing, church-going woman. He said Barfield bolstered her image as a devout Christian by asking her employers -- the families who hired her to care for ailing, elderly relatives whom she later poisoned -- for Wednesday nights and Sundays off so she could go to church. Once imprisoned she, too, began leading Bible studies and counseling troubled female felons. She also uttered a deathbed apology.

The image the media portrayed most often was that of a grandmother kneeling in prayer in prison, Britt added, and some of the victims' relatives had a difficult time believing she was capable of the crimes. Britt, however, said he was unfazed by arguments that Barfield should not be executed because of her Christianity -- a claim of which he was skeptical. "I probably brought more people to the Lord than Billy Graham," he said of his work as a prosecutor. "I mean when they go to prison, they all find the Lord ... I hope it's true. I hope they do that. And if (Tucker has) had this experience, that's wonderful. It prepares her better for the judgment under the law."

Although death penalty opponents had predicted a public outrage if North Carolina proceeded with the execution of Barfield, Britt said that never materialized. "I think the biggest flap came from other parts of the country and particularly overseas ... ," he said. One key difference between Tucker's and Barfield's cases is the commutation process. While North Carolina law allows its governor wide discretion in determining whether and when to pardon felons or reduce their sentences, the Texas Constitution allows a governor to take such action only if the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles first recommends it. And even if the board does, the governor may still reject a commutation.

Additionally, the state constitution allows the governor to grant a one-time, 30-day delay in an execution. Bush has never granted a 30-day reprieve, but his predecessor, Democrat Ann Richards, did so twice.

Tucker has not yet filed a petition for a reprieve or commutation with the parole board, but her attorney said he plans to ask the governor to commute her sentence. A Jan. 30 execution date has informally been targeted, attorney George "Mac" Secrest of Houston, said he plans to ask Bush to commute his client's sentence.

In interviews with the Chronicle last week, several of the 18 parole board members indicate Tucker will have a tough time convincing them that her death sentence should not be carried out. "It is definitely an uphill challenge," said board member Gerald Garrett, who works in the board's Gatesville office. Any pleas Tucker might make based on her turning her life over to God apparently will not carry much weight with some parole board members. Male convicts have raised the issue before and been rejected. "Religious conversion is not a factor in anything we do," said Victor Rodriguez, board chairman. "I don't expect it to be a factor in this case either."


Karla Faye Tucker: Why So Many Want to Save Her

By S.C. Gwynne Austin -

January 19, 1998

Karla Faye Tucker is the nicest woman on death row. She is so nice, in fact, and so well liked by people who know her that it is virtually impossible to look at this attractive, sweet-natured, born-again Christian and imagine the gruesome crime to which she confessed in Houston, Texas, on June 13, 1983.

Back then she was a drug-addicted prostitute who, during a weekend orgy with her boyfriend, had consumed an astonishing quantity of heroin, Valium, speed, percodan, mandrax, marijuana, dilaudid, methadone, tequila and rum. The two then took a pickax and hacked to death Jerry Lynn Dean, 27, her ex-lover, and Deborah Thornton, 32, his companion of the moment, while they slept. Tucker, who left the pickax embedded in Thornton's chest, boasted at her trial that she had experienced an orgasm with each swing of the ax.

She was convicted in 1984 and sentenced to death. Fourteen years later, in the state with the busiest execution chamber in the land, Tucker now finds herself next in line to die. Barring a last-minute delay or commutation, on Feb. 3 she will be strapped to a gurney in Huntsville, Texas, and given a lethal injection that will stop her heart.

If that happens, she will become the first woman executed in Texas since Chipita Rodriguez was hanged in 1863 for killing a horse trader--and the first woman in the U.S. since Velma ("Death Row Granny") Barfield was put to death in North Carolina in 1984 for poisoning her boyfriend.

There is no doubt that Tucker is guilty. She says so herself. What makes her case striking is not just her gender but also her apparently profound conversion to Christianity. The latter has prompted an unlikely cohort of supporters to come to her defense at the 11th hour, including Deborah Thornton's brother and Jerry Lynn Dean's sister, the homicide detective who put her on death row, several former prosecutors, televangelist Pat Robertson and thousands of citizens.

Her staunchest supporter is Dana Brown, the prison chaplain she met and married two years ago--a relationship that has never been consummated, even by a kiss, because death-row inmates are not allowed contact with visitors. Says Tucker's attorney, George ("Mac") Secrest: "If ever there was a case for commutation, this is the one."

Skeptics respond that jailhouse conversions are both commonplace and not relevant in deciding who receives a pardon. And in spite of efforts to save her, it seems unlikely that either the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles or Governor George W. Bush, who must concur for a sentence to be commuted, will block her execution. Bush, a law-and-order Republican facing a re-election campaign this year, would seem to gain little politically by such a move.

Moreover, there simply are not the requisite legal questions or doubts about her guilt that might prompt commutation. Pardon has never been given to anyone in Texas based on religious conversion.

None of which will make it any easier to watch the pleasant, earnestly friendly Tucker become the 145th person killed since Texas resumed the death penalty in 1982. She has said repeatedly in interviews that she is "far removed" from the person who committed the crime. But she is the person almost certain to die for it.


Two New Stamps Memorialize Tucker

By Eric Berger - Houston Chronicle

March 16, 1998

A group of Texans opposed to the death penalty joined with a Danish human rights group Monday to release new stamps commemorating Karla Faye Tucker, the first woman executed in Texas since 1863.

The stamps, which cannot be used to mail letters or packages, are similar in function to Easter Seals. "These two stamps of Karla F. Tucker have been made in the hope they will remind you of a human being killed by the state of Texas," said Karen Grue of the Denmark-based group Living Artists, which designed the stamps.

There are two designs, both featuring the same face of a smiling Tucker. In one, she appears in front of a prison gurney similar to the one on which she was executed on Feb. 3 at age 38. On the other stamp, she appears opposite an American flag with an oil rig in the background.

The stamps, intended to put a human face on those executed, are being distributed locally by the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and overseas by Amnesty International's office in Copenhagen.

The president of Justice For All, a local victim's rights group, called the stamps a poorly conceived idea. "Once again, the victims are disregarded and forgotten," said Dianne Clements. "It is an insult to the surviving family members, not to mention the sensibilities of caring individuals, who realize it is twisted and contemptuous to glorify a murder."

But the anti-death penalty coalition members said the stamps are not intended to detract from the memory of victims, but to protest what they call a barbarous process. "This stamp is a reaction and protest to the death penalty by the people of Europe," said David Atwood, coordinator of the Texas coalition.

Richard Thornton, the husband of Tucker's victim, said, "It is most unfortunate that the artists who were motivated to produce this work were so horribly misinformed as to the true character of the person portrayed by them. The work would have been closer to the truth if it had included a pickax and a great deal of blood."


Texas v. Karla Faye Tucker

Background Report: A Question of Mercy

Should Karla Faye Tucker die? This was the question that the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Gov. George W. Bush faced in the weeks leading up to Tucker's execution. However, on February 3, 1998, Gov. Bush and the Texas Board of Pardons answered that question when Tucker was executed by lethal injection.

In 1984, Tucker was convicted of the brutal murders of her ex-lover, Jerry Lynn Dean, and his companion, Deborah Thornton and sentenced to the death penalty.

During her trial, Tucker admitted that on June 13, 1983, she and her boyfriend at the time, Daniel Ryan Garrett, took a pickax and hacked Dean and Thornton to death while they were sleeping. (Garrett was also convicted of murder and sentenced to the death penalty. However, he died of liver disease while in prison in 1994.) At the murder scene, investigators found the pickax still embedded in Thornton's chest.

Tucker even boasted at her trial that she experienced an orgasm each time she plunged the ax down upon her victims. Back then, Tucker was a drug addict and prostitute who seemed unrepentant, and even proud, of her actions.

In various pleas to save her life, Tucker's supporters and lawyer claimed that Tucker, 38, was not the same woman who committed those brutal murders nearly 15 years ago. She was a born-again Christian, and with her "girl-next-door" attractiveness, sometimes it may seem hard to believe that she could have committed such gruesome murders.

But Tucker and her lawyer, David Botsford, freely admitted her guilt. Because of her conversion to Christianity, apparent rehabilitation and virtually spotless disciplinary record while in prison, Botsford and other supporters believed that Tucker should be spared the death penalty. Tucker's detractors said that religious conversions for inmates are common and are not a legitimate basis for a pardon from the death penalty.

A Plea for Mercy

On January 20, 1997, attorneys for Tucker filed a petition to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and state district court in Houston to postpone Tucker's execution so that they could have more time to challenge the constitutionality of the state's clemency procedure.

In the 155-page court document, Tucker's lawyers reportedly stressed that Tucker was fully rehabilitated and demonstrated during her 14-year imprisonment that she posed no future threat to society. In seeking a pardon from the death penalty, Tucker asked that her sentence be reduced to life imprisonment. Under that sentence, Tucker would have been eligible for parole in 2003.

Reportedly, Tucker's petition was also accompanied by approximately 200 pages of exhibits supporting her plea. Among the exhibits was a Tucker wrote to Gov. Bush and members of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, telling them that her crime was "the most horrible nightmare of my life" and that she is no longer a threat to society.

Tucker's Supporters and the Odds Against Her

According to court papers, Tucker and Garrett killed Jerry Lynn Dean and Deborah Thornton when they broke into Dean's apartment to steal motorcycle parts. Garrett was surprised to find Dean home, asleep in his bed, and proceeded to beat him over the head with a hammer. Tucker then struck Dean with a three-foot ax more than 20 times to stop the gurgling sound he was making. Seeing that Thornton was under the bedsheets next to Dean, Tucker then turned the ax on her.

A pardon from a death sentence in Texas reportedly has never been granted to anyone based on a religious conversion. And of the 36 pardons that have been granted to Texas death-row inmates since 1976, not one has been granted solely for humanitarian reasons.

In addition, Gov. Bush, who would have had to approve the pardon with a majority vote by the parole board, publicly said that in evaluating Tucker's case, he would only consider whether there was any doubt she committed the crime and whether she had a fair trial.

Karla Faye Tucker's case attracted a group of supporters that include Rev. Pat Robertson, the homicide detective who recommended that she get the death penalty in the first place, thousands of citizens, and even some support from her victims' siblings.

Tucker married a prison chaplain, Dana Brown, two years ago, and he remained by her side until her execution. Tucker was the first woman executed in the United States since 1984, coincidentally the year of her conviction.

A Series of Appeals Rejected

Karla Faye Tucker's appeal to halt her execution was rejected by the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals on January 28, 1998, less than a week before her scheduled execution. Tucker's lawyers had argued Texas's procedure for commuting death sentences, claiming that the law provides no guidelines for parole board members in considering clemency for death row inmates.

The following week, on February 2, 1998 (the eve of Tucker's scheduled execution), the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, which could have recommend a pardon for Tucker to Gov. George Bush, rejected her request to have her death sentence changed to life in prison.

On February 3, Tucker's last chance to avoid the death penalty lied with the U.S. Supreme Court, which considered her petition for a stay of the execution. But the Supreme Court denied the request, clearing the way for Tucker's execution later that day.


Excerpts from Karla Faye Tucker Letter to Governor Bush

Houston Chronicle

January 20, 1998

Though she has not formally filed a request to have her death sentence commuted to life imprisonment, Karla Faye Tucker has written Gov. George W. Bush and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to plead her case. Following are excerpts:

"I am in no way attempting to minimize the brutality of my crime. It obviously was very, very horrible and I do take full responsibility for what happened. ... I also know that justice and law demand my life for the two innocent lives I brutally murdered that night. If my execution is the only thing, the final act that can fulfill the demand for restitution and justice, then I accept that. ... I will pay the price for what I did in any way our law demands it."

"I was advised by my attorneys to plead not guilty and I was trusting their legal expertise. They knew I murdered Jerry and Deborah. I did not lie to them about it. ... I am, in fact, guilty. Very guilty."

"I used to try and blame my mother because she was my role model and she fashioned and shaped me into what I was at an early age. ... At 14 she took me to a place where there was all men and wanted to `school me' in the art of being a call girl. I wanted to please my mother so much. I wanted her to be proud of me. So instead of saying no, I just tried to do what she asked. ... The thing is, deep down inside I knew that what I was doing was wrong. It may have been the norm for the crowd I was in, but it was not the norm for decent, upstanding families."

"I no longer try to lay the blame on my mother or on society." "I don't blame drugs either. When I share that I was out of it on drugs the night I brutally murdered two people, I fully realize that I made the choice to do those drugs. Had I chosen not to do drugs, there would be two people still alive today. But I did choose to do drugs, and I did lose it, and two people are dead because of me."

"I did not plan on going over there that particular night to go into that apartment to kill anyone. But that is beside the point. The fact is, we went there, we went into the apartment, we brutally murdered two precious people, and we left out of there and even bragged about what we did for over a month afterward." "It was in October, three months after I had been locked up, when a ministry came to the jail and I went to the services, that night accepting Jesus into my heart. When I did this, the full and overwhelming weight and reality of what I had done hit me. ... I began crying that night for the first time in many years, and to this day, tears are a part of my life."

"I also wanted to try and send some money out to one of my victim's family members (it was for Deborah's son, for his schooling). ... When Ron Carlson came to me in 1992 and told me he had forgiven me for what I had done to his sister, I let him know I was trying to get some money to his nephew. He told me not to ... I would only be hurting him if I did send the money to him. And he told me that his nephew would not receive the money from me anyway because he wanted nothing to do with me. I understand the pain and I did not push."

"Fourteen years ago, I was part of the problem. Now I am part of the solution. "I have purposed to do right for the last 14 years, not because I am in prison, but because my God demands this of me. I know right from wrong and I must do right." "I feel that if I were in here still in the frame of mind I got arrested in, still acting out and fighting and hurting others and not caring or trying to do good, I feel sure you would consider that against me. ... I don't really understand why you can't or won't consider my change for the good in my favor."

"I don't really understand the guidelines for commutation of death sentences, but I can promise you this: If you commute my sentence to life, I will continue for the rest of my life in this earth to reach out to others to make a positive difference in their lives." "I see people in here in the prison where I am who are here for horrible crimes, and for lesser crimes, who to this day are still acting out in violence and hurting others with no concern for another life or for their own life. I can reach out to these girls and try and help them change before they walk out of this place and hurt someone else."

"I am seeking you to commute my sentence and allow me to pay society back by helping others. I can't bring back the lives I took. But I can, if I am allowed, help save lives. That is the only real restitution I can give."


Karla Faye Tucker's Original Memorial Homepage

The letter of the law states that to receive the death penalty in Texas two requirements must both be met: 1) The crime was premeditated 2) The criminal is a continuing threat to society Neither were true of Karla. Since she did not meet either of these requirements ... they WHY was she executed?

If she had had "due process" and a FULL and FAIR hearing in the courts on ALL the issues (which she didn't the truth would have prevailed, and the mitigating evidence around this crime would have qualified her for a sentence of life in prison ... which she would no doubt receive if tried today with a different judge and a Change of Venue. "That's a FACT!" Our posting of court proceedings, filings and transcripts will prove it!

Be sure to see some of the actual court transcript and filings, which we are beginning to upload, including the trial judge's own account, which were submitted to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, showing that the trial judge was biased, admitting that Jimmy Leibrant lied about his deal with the state for testimony against Karla, then later at the Evidentiary Hearing suppressing evidence of perjured testimony that could have exonerated Karla from the "premeditation" aspect of this crime, which is required before a death sentence can be given.

The testimony of the psychiatrist was that in light of all the drugs Karla was on at the time --- methadone, heroin, dilaudid, valium, placidyls, somas, wygesics, percodan, mandrex, marihuana, bathroom "coke" and large quantities of alcohol -- that Karla was in a drug induced psychosis on the date of the offense and that a person "becomes psychotic, unable to distinguish reality, unable to ascertain the effect of their actions." Dr. Felkins testified that Karla did NOT "understand what she was doing at the time and what the affect of her actions would be. She did not realize that what she was doing was wrong and preventable."

Of course, Judge Lykos' bias against Karla saw to it that none of this was ever considered as "mitigating evidence" and accepted instead the perjured testimony of Jimmy Liebrant, third accomplice in the crime even though he came forth in 1992 to confess that he had lied about the premeditation and drugs of Karla on the stand, and was even "high" during his testimony. Judge Lykos even acknowledges this in the court records you will read here in the coming days. What happened to a "fair hearing" and Justice in America?

When you think that as cruel as the old Soviet Union was, there at least were hospitals for the "criminally insane" it makes you wonder why the U.S. is the only western, technocratic society that still conducts executions, and among the few of all nations such as Iran, Iraq & Nigeria, all of whom have human rights violations, that executes teenagers and the mentally ill. Oh, and yes, the victims of our failed "war on drugs" like Karla ! ! ! ! Many Americans do not wish to be collegues in crime with our cold and politically-minded American society that has no value of the sanctity of LIFE . . . EVERY LIFE! Americans for life, speak up and vote for true defenders of "justice for all." We can change things before many more Karlas are ignored and killed by our society.

Finally, our purpose in continuing this site for a while is not to eulogize Karla, but to address a bigger problem of lack of sensitivity and understanding of the scourge of drugs and the ineptitude of our society to deal with it and other such social problems. Issues of justice and basic human rights will always be relevant and are basic to our motivation for ministry to this generation. So check in ... and see future postings. Thank you for your interest and support of this site. God bless you all!

As Karla's pastor for over 12 years (1984-1996) I and our whole church and outreach ministry, with whom Karla actively worked, have spent much time getting to THE TRUTH, and in the aftermath of Karla's execution, I will post on these pages evidence such as court records and other documentation, which attest to the veracity of our statements here. Karla's attorney, Mac Secrest, can also attest to the factual accuracy of these pages, particularly the facts of this gross miscarriage of justice noted on the page regarding "due process.

The record shows Karla is a true example of many who can not get a fair hearing or justice in a local "home-town," vigilante-minded court because of the same kind of treatment by local authorities and courts as that received by Ricardo Guerra,whose capital murder conviction and death sentence for a murder the year before Karla's (1982) was overturned in 1994 by U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth Hoyt. When he saw that witnesses had been pressured and intimidated for certain testimony (as Liebrant had been), Hoyt stated that the actions of the police and prosecutors (in Houston) were "outrageous," "intentional" and "done in bad faith" ..."to obtain another 'notch in their guns' " (like Lykos). His ruling was unanimously upheld by the U.S. Court of appeals.

This was the "same channel, same place, same time," folks--Houston-- in the early eighties! Same injustice, same prejudice by a vengeance-filled court and judge with "home court advantage"! No change of venue here! Some of the jurors now regret it, but did their best with what the JUDGE allowed them to see, hear and consider! Judge Lykos' controlled verdict prevailed from beginning to the end!

For the few hating Karla and her "life-message" and thinking justice was served, my suggestion is you FACE the FACTS and ask how you can contribute to changing injustice, prejudice and vengeance in our land ... to exchange your "heart of stone" for a "heart of flesh" that responds to the needs of the oppressed, down-trodden, homeless, family-less, abused drug-ridden pariah of our society like Karla. Then you will have the heart of Christ, and God will be pleased with you! You will no longer be the one to cast the first stone, but the first one to try to interceed and cry, "Restore!"

Finally, we're not talking about Karla now or eulogizing her, we're talking about Almighty God and his requirements of true Justice With Mercy. You may need it some day. "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy," Jesus said, but "judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful" (Ja. 2:13) Jesus said, "As the Father has sent Me, so send I you." So ask yourself what my children do and did when they saw Karla's picture in the paper, "What would Jesus do?" They said, "He wouldn't KILL her!"


Karla Faye Tucker

When she was declared dead at 6:45pm CST, Karla Faye Tucker became the first woman executed in Texas since Chipita Rodriguez was hanged in 1863 and the first in the United States since 1984.

Her last words were:

"Yes sir, I would like to say to all of you, the Thornton family and Jerry Dean's family that I am so sorry. I hope God will give you peace with this.

Baby, I love you. Ron, give Peggy a hug for me. Everybody has been so good to me. I love all of you very much. I'm going to be face-to-face with Jesus now.

Warden Baggett, thank all of you so much. You have been so good to me. I love all of you very much. I will see you all when you get there. I will wait for you."

In the days before her execution, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied her claim that the state's clemency process was unconstitutional on January 28. On February 2, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles rejected her bid for clemency.

Finally, on February 3, the United States Supreme Court rejected two requests to halt the execution and Texas governor George W. Bush refused to grant a one-time 30-day reprieve.

Tucker was convicted of killing Jerry Lynn Dean and Deborah Thornton with a pickax. Tucker admitted accompanying Daniel Garrett to a Houston apartment to steal Dean's motorcycle. Garrett started beating Dean with a hammer and when Dean began to gurgle, she picked up a pickax and repeatedly stabbed him with it. When Dean's friend was discovered hiding in a corner of the room, Tucker turned the pickax on her to eliminate her as a witness.

Her case received worldwide attention because of her conversion to Christianity and her gender. Evangelist and former presidential candidate Pat Robertson, a death penalty supporter, said, "This thing is vengeance. It makes no sense. This is not the same woman who committed those crimes."

Appeals for clemency on her behalf also came from Pope John Paul II, Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, U.N. expert on summary and arbitrary executions Waly Bacre Ndiaye, the World Council of Churches, and even the brother of Deborah Thornton, Ron Carlson.


Karla Faye TUCKER


Karla Faye Tucker had a difficult childhood, her father had given up on her as a child and her mother died from the effects of drug abuse on Christmas Eve 1979 when she was 20, ending her relationship with the only person, whom she said, had always really loved her.

She too had got into hard drugs and her mother got her into prostitution at the age of 14.

It is a sadly common story in murder cases - a young person gets into drugs and then into crime after a poor or disturbed childhood.

The murders

On June 13 1983, Karla Faye Tucker (aged 23) and Daniel Ryan Garrett (27) allegedly high on a cocktail of methadone, Valium, heroin, marijuana, rum, tequila and other drugs went to the Houston apartment of Jerry Lynn Dean (also aged 27), apparently to steal Dean’s Harley Davidson motorcycle.

Karla knew Dean who was the estranged husband of her best friend. She disliked him as he had once parked the motorbike in her living room and let it drip oil onto the carpet. He had also destroyed her only pictures of her mother.

When they entered the apartment they found Jerry Dean asleep. Garrett attacked Dean with a hammer. Dean was making a gurgling sound so Karla finished him off with the pick axe.

"I just wanted to make the noise stop," she testified at her trial.

Then she noticed 32-year-old Deborah Thornton cowering under sheets in a corner. She had had a row with her husband and met Dean at a party earlier that evening. Hyped up on the drugs and the killing of Jerry Dean, Karla attacked Deborah Thornton with the pickaxe, raining numerous blows into her body and finally leaving the pick axe embedded in her torso. The pair stole Jerry Dean's money and car before they left.
Tucker later was heard on a police wiretap saying she had an orgasm every time she sank the pickaxe into Dean and Thornton’s bodies.

Arrest and trial

Daniel Garrett was arrested after a tip off on July 20th 1983 as he left home to go to work. Karla was arrested the same day, as was a third suspect Albert Sheenan.

Karla Faye went to trial on April 11th 1984 before a jury of eight women and four men, presided over by a female judge. Albert Sheenan who admitted having gone to Dean's apartment but denied any part in the murders. He testified against both defendants.

The defense called no witnesses and the jury retired for only 70 minutes before convicting Karla. The trial now entered the penalty phase and the defense called a woman psychiatrist who testified that Karla had told her she had been taking drugs since the age of nine and was addicted to heroin at ten. She described Karla's state of mind to the court - how Karla had not slept in three days and how she had been taking drugs and drink on the night of the killings. The psychiatrist also told the jury that she didn't think it likely that Karla had derived sexual pleasure from the killings even though she had boasted about having done so on the wiretap. She thought it unlikely that Karla had ever experienced any real sexual satisfaction in fact.

Karla took the stand in her own defense and gave her version of the events and told the jury that she did not feel the killings were real to her "I did not see the bodies. I do not remember seeing any holes or any blood".

After deliberating for nearly 3 hours on April 25th 1984 the jury recommended that Karla Faye be sentenced to death by lethal injection. The trial had made the news, but Karla's death sentence made headlines.


one front-page declared in letters an inch high over a picture of Tucker. (Daniel Garrett was tried separately, convicted and sentenced to death in November of the same year but subsequently died of liver disease on death row in 1993.)


Karla spent nearly 14 years on female death row at the Mountain View unit of Gatesville penitentiary. Here she went through the normal appeals process and a final appeal to the state governor, George W Bush for clemency all of which were rejected. On Monday 2 February 1998, she was flown the 175 miles to Huntsville and taken to the Walls Unit to be placed in a holding cell next to the execution chamber. On her final day, she refused breakfast in her cell and was said by her guards to be "at peace". She wrote a letter and took two visits. She was allowed half-an-hour with her husband, prison minister Dana Brown whom she had married on death row, and another half-hour with a spiritual adviser.

The US Supreme Court rejected two last-minute calls for clemency and the Texas governor, George Bush, ordered the execution to go ahead on time. He said her case had been thoroughly reviewed. "I have concluded judgements about the heart and soul of an individual on Death Row are best left to a higher authority," Mr. Bush said.

Sometime after 6.20 p.m. Karla dressed in fresh white prison clothes got onto the gurney unaided and was strapped down over her legs and body. Her arms were strapped to side boards and a catheter was inserted into the veins of each arm. She was wheeled into the execution chamber at 6.35 p.m.

She was asked if she had a final statement and turned her head towards the witness chamber and said into the microphone: "Yes sir, I would like to say to all of you, the Thornton family and Jerry Dean’s family that I am so sorry. I hope God will give you peace with this.

Karla then looked at her husband, watching from behind the screen, and said: "Baby, I love you. Everybody has been so good to me. I love all of you very much. I’m going to be face to face with Jesus now.

"Warden Baggett, thank all of you so much. You have been so good to me. I love all of you very much. I will see you all when you get there. I will wait for you."
She closed her eyes, and seemed to move her lips in silent prayer before looking at the ceiling.

The three drugs, sodium thiopental, pancuronium bromide, and potassium chloride began to be injected at 6.37 p.m. Within two minutes, the witnesses heard Tucker give two deep sighs and then a groan. She was pronounced dead at 6.45pm, eight minutes later. Her eyes were open and still staring at the ceiling.

Richard Thornton, the victim’s husband, and her son, Bucky David, 24, and step-daughter, Kathryn Thornton, 26, were among those who watched the execution.

Afterwards Thornton said: "I want to say to every victim in the world, demand this execution. This day belongs to Deborah Ruth Thornton. Her killer has been sent to a place we’re all going to go to sometime, some place my wife already is. She will deal with Karla Faye Tucker. I promise you, it won’t be pretty." He also dismissed Ms. Tucker’s apology to his family as "staged." "I don’t believe in her Christianity. I don’t believe in her conversion" he said.

Outside the prison there were demonstrations by both pro and anti capital punishment groups.

Karla Faye Tucker - her own thoughts

On the 18 January 1998 Karla sent a letter to George W. Bush. the governor of Texas of which some extracts were published.

"I am in no way attempting to minimize the brutality of my crime. It obviously was very, very horrible and I do take full responsibility for what happened. I also know that justice and law demand my life for the two innocent lives I brutally murdered that night. If my execution is the only thing, the final act that can fulfil the demand for restitution and justice, then I accept that. I will pay the price for what I did in any way our law demands it."

"I was advised by my attorneys to plead not guilty and I was trusting their legal expertise. They knew I murdered Jerry and Deborah. I did not lie to them about it. I am, in fact, guilty. Very guilty."

"I used to try and blame my mother because she was my role model and she fashioned and shaped me into what I was at an early age. At 14 she took me to a place where there was all men and wanted to ‘school me’ in the art of being a call girl. I wanted to please my mother so much. I wanted her to be proud of me. So instead of saying no, I just tried to do what she asked. The thing is, deep down inside I knew that what I was doing was wrong. It may have been the norm for the crowd I was in, but it was not the norm for decent, upstanding families."

"I no longer try to lay the blame on my mother or on society."

"I don’t blame drugs either. When I say that I was out of it on drugs the night I brutally murdered two people, I fully realize that I made the choice to do those drugs. Had I chosen not to do drugs, there would be two people still alive today. But I did choose to do drugs, and I did lose it, and two people are dead because of me."

"I did not plan on going over there that particular night to go into that apartment to kill anyone. But that is beside the point. The fact is, we went there, we went into the apartment, we brutally murdered two precious people, and we left out of there and even bragged about what we did for over a month afterward."

"It was in October, three months after I had been locked up, when a ministry came to the jail and I went to the services, that night accepting Jesus into my heart.

When I did this, the full and overwhelming weight and reality of what I had done hit me. I began crying that night for the first time in many years, and to this day, tears are a part of my life."

"I also wanted to try and send some money out to one of my victim’s family members (it was for Deborah’s son, for his schooling). When Ron Carlson came to me in 1992 and told me he had forgiven me for what I had done to his sister, I let him know I was trying to get some money to his nephew. He told me not to. I would only be hurting him if I did send the money to him. And he told me that his nephew would not receive the money from me anyway because he wanted nothing to do with me. I understand the pain and I did not push."

"Fourteen years ago, I was part of the problem. Now I am part of the solution.

"I have purposed to do right for the last 14 years, not because I am in prison, but because my God demands this of me. I know right from wrong and I must do right."

"I feel that if I were in here still in the frame of mind I got arrested in, still acting out and fighting and hurting others and not caring or trying to do good, I feel sure you would consider that against me. I don’t really understand why you can’t or won’t consider my change for the good in my favor."

"I don’t really understand the guidelines for commutation of death sentences, but I can promise you this: If you commute my sentence to life, I will continue for the rest of my life in this earth to reach out to others to make a positive difference in their lives."

"I see people in here in the prison where I am who are here for horrible crimes, and for lesser crimes, who to this day are still acting out in violence and hurting others with no concern for another life or for their own life. I can reach out to these girls and try and help them change before they walk out of this place and hurt someone else."

"I am seeking you to commute my sentence and allow me to pay society back by helping others. I can’t bring back the lives I took. But I can, if I am allowed, help save lives. That is the only real restitution I can give."


Some of you reading this may be totally against capital punishment under any circumstances which is a view I understand and respect, equally some of you may be whole heartedly in favor of it which is a view that I also understand and respect. What I cannot accept is the selective view that says it alright to execute a man but not a woman, or person in the Middle East but not an American - this is inconsistent and patently unjust. I hope that you would all agree that if a society is to have the death penalty then it should be applied even handedly and promptly or it should be abolished and replaced with a sentence of imprisonment that reflects the gravity of the crime. Whatever the punishment it should not be based upon the race, sex, social standing or past and present personality of the offender. If it is affected by these factors it could hardly be called justice. (This is, in fact, often a criticism of the American justice system which seems to some to be more willing to execute poor black males while reprieving women and wealthy white males).

As many people have pointed out had Karla been Karl i.e. a man rather than a woman, most of us would never have heard of the case and the execution would have sparked little or no interest.

37 men were executed at the Walls Unit in 1997 but very few people could name any of them and they hardly got so much as a mention in the foreign press.
The anti-capital punishment lobby created as much hype as possible over this case and there is always a far stronger interest from the media in female executions. It was just the same when Velma Barfield was executed.
Why do we have this strange attitude in society to the execution of women which does not apply to the execution of men?

Why is it that in America women are deemed virtually ineligible for capital punishment?

Is it still a male dominated society where women are perceived somehow as vulnerable? Are they not as responsible for their crimes as men? NO - clearly these are nonsensical reasons in a modern world in which women are as well, or better, educated, have successful careers, hold senior positions in government, law, business, the public services and the military. And yet there is widespread concern at putting women to death which is seen as somehow barbaric.

Surprisingly the only retentionist country that expressly forbids the execution of women is Pakistan.

Do we think they are not brave enough to face their punishment or is it just a misplaced sense of chivalry on the part of men - perhaps a reverence for the mother figure?

The European Parliament, The Pope, Bianca Jagger and all the rest of the anti-capital punishment establishment were rolled out for Karla - but why?

Was it because she was still reasonably young and attractive?

Was it because of the media availability in countries such as America and the considerable notice that the media had of the execution date - it was announced on 17th December last year by District Judge Debbie Stricklin in Houston?

Certainly Karla gave a good media performance and hardly came across as a monster.

However there is the little matter of the facts - Karla was, by her own admission, guilty of two particularly horrific murders where the motive was either theft or sadistic pleasure or both.

The jury voted for the death sentence, which under Texas law they are entitled to do, because of the appalling nature of the crimes. Had Karla killed, say, her abusive husband in a fight they would have probably voted for a term of imprisonment. Do we respect the jury system or do we feel we have the right to overturn their verdict and sentence when we disapprove of it? (Remember the furore of the Louise Woodward case when the judge took that same step).

As there was no doubt of her guilt why wasn’t she executed in 1984 when she was still the same person who committed those crimes and when her execution might have had some positive effect?

And what about her religious conversion - I am willing to accept that it was genuine but unable to see how it helps, she was still just as guilty. When a person is placed on death row it is a very different life - they have no work and little or nothing to occupy their time. Any human contact makes a change from life in a cell and religion may be a route to a reprieve so it is not surprising that many condemned prisoners turn to it. Probably some of them are genuinely appalled by their crimes and want to find God to obtain His forgiveness. This is reasonable but does not in my view constitute grounds for a reprieve. Obviously the Texas Pardons Board felt the same as they voted 16 - 0 (with two abstentions) against a reprieve in this case. A death sentence means what it says and is not about rehabilitation which would not have taken place had the sentence been carried out after the first appeal was turned down. It is about retribution pure and simple.

Vast sums of public money (typically $2 - 2.5 million in a Texas capital case) were spent on endless appeals for no useful purpose and yet over the years Karla had grown up, kicked her drug habit and found religion thus becoming a very different person. (Over a period of 14 years most of us change significantly). And yet if some of that money had been spent on her and Daniel Garrett when they were totally out of control and hooked on drugs would four people still be alive today?

Whatever your views on capital punishment there are no winners at an execution, it merely adds to the overall tragedy.

If a state is going to have the death penalty, Karla Faye Tucker was just the sort of case where it will be imposed. In a modern democracy where there is proper concern for justice there should always be an appeal but if that fails and there are no compelling factors for further review of the case the execution should be carried out promptly.

Had Texas taken this route it would have met far less protest and it would have, in reality, been far less cruel to Karla Faye Tucker.

Her victim’s families would have been able to close off a painful chapter in their lives much sooner and the state would have saved a great deal of money.

Surely it is pointless and cruel to keep someone on death row for almost 14 years before carrying out their sentence.


Karla Faye Tucker

(CNN) -- Karla Faye Tucker admits that nearly 15 years ago, she helped murder two people with a pickax. And she says that a few months later, she became a Christian.

Tucker, 38, now wants the result of the conversion -- a clean life -- to spare her from the result of the killings: her own death, scheduled for Tuesday.

The slim, brown-eyed brunette refuses to talk about her specific memories of the June 1983 night that she and her boyfriend barged into the Houston, Texas, home of Jerry Lynn Dean.

"The details of what happened that night, I don't share," Tucker told CNN's Larry King in a January 14 interview on death row at Texas' Mountain View Unit in Gatesville.

The details shocked the nation. She and Daniel Garrett, both high on drugs for days, went to "case the joint" for robbery when they entered Dean's home.

The Texas "rap sheet," the state Department of Criminal Justice's inmate case brief, summarizes her testimony: Garrett bashed Dean in the head with a hammer, and Tucker grabbed a pickax to silence a "gurgling sound" Dean was making.

Tucker and Garrett also attacked Deborah Thornton, a friend of Dean's, with the pickax. Both bodies had more than 20 stab wounds. Tucker said she felt each stroke sexually, a claim she later recanted.

She was convicted and sentenced to death in Dean's killing. Garrett was also convicted and sentenced to death; he died in prison in 1993.

"I can't -- I can't make sense out of it," Tucker told King of the murders.

Having faith in her faith

But she can make sense of what religion has done for her. Pointing to her faith and clean prison record, she claims she no longer meets a key finding for sentencing someone to death in Texas -- posing a threat to society.

"If there is a change for the positive, and it's proven, and it's factual, why can't that be considered" in her plea to be spared lethal injection, she asked on "Larry King Live."

Her husband, Dana Brown, is just one of many supporters convinced her conversion is genuine. He was doing prison ministry when he met her, and married her by proxy in 1995.

Thornton's own brother, Ron Carlson, wants her spared. Her supporter with perhaps the biggest marquee value is former presidential candidate Pat Robertson.

To opponents, including Thornton's widowed husband Richard, the issue is not as simple as excusing her from execution.

They note that if her sentence were commuted to life, she could be eligible for parole in five years. And they dismiss her willingness to forgo parole as a ploy outside Texas law.

Gender bias in Texas?

Then, many observers suggest she's only getting sympathy as the first woman to be executed in Texas since the Civil War, and only the second in the nation since a 1976 Supreme Court decision reinstated the death penalty.

Tucker claims her gender may be more hindrance than help.

"This gender issue is almost forcing their hand to say, 'we're not going to let a woman get by with it'" and be spared, Tucker told King.

Learning to value life

The woman once capable of extreme brutality now not only rejects the death penalty, she also opposes abortion and euthanasia. She even wants her own child.

Tucker says she wants to live to minister to other prisoners who are as lost as she was. But she placed little value even on her own life before her conversion.

"I didn't care about anybody. I didn't care about myself," she told King.

When she was very young, she said, her mother told her she could grow up to become anything. But her mother also gave her little guidance, and encouraged her to be a prostitute as a teen-ager. Her father, by then, wasn't on the scene.

Tucker recalled using marijuana and heroin for years before that. She dropped out of school. By the time of the murders, she was trying to impress a rough crowd.

She told King it was "inevitable that something like that was going to happen in my life," given her circumstances.

"I not only didn't walk around without any guilt, I was proud of thinking that I had finally measured up to the big boys," she said.

Then, in the fall of 1983, she stole a Bible after a prison ministry program, took it to her cell and began to read -- and realize what she had done.

"I didn't know what I was reading and before I knew it, I was just -- I was in the middle of my floor on my knees and I was just asking God to forgive me."

Now more than 14 years later, Tucker was clinging to that turn-about, as she stared February 3 in the face.

"It's a blessing to be a part of it," she told King of her case, "and it's exciting to know that God has a plan for this."


Karla Faye Tucker: Texas' Controversial Murderess

by Joseph Geringer

Pick Axe

Petite, curly-haired, 23-year-old Karla Faye Tucker, when not glassy-eyed under the effects of the multitude of drugs she tended to swallow at one sitting, may have looked like some proud mother's honor student. The fresh-faced Texan, however, by the time June 13, 1983, rolled around, had lived a life hard enough to have erased any schoolgirl whispiness from the core of her eyes. Innocence hadn't slowly evaporated in Karla Faye's case; it had been devoured painfully, masticated by a world that chewed her up halfway before she learned to bite back.

She would later describe herself during that time in her life as being a mixed-up, peer-pressured, radical whose life had been a succession of last-minute decisions, all without fear of consequence, all bad, all rotten. If one were to watch her face as the sun went down that June, 1983, they would have seen the expression of someone who was, as she were to tell TV interviewer Larry King years later, "crazy, violent."

A party had been in force for three days in the small brick house in Houston, Texas; there Karla Faye lived with 37-year-old Daniel Garrett, described in his world as a "pill doctor," a provider of pills. Inspiration for the weekend bash was the birthday of Kari Ann, Karla's older sister, and as it steamed on it had developed into something more than the "high" everyone hoped. Inhibitions disappeared as well as clothing. Kari had wanted a sex orgy and her celebrants were eager to give her one. Garrett and the partiers en masse were like Karla Faye, whose existence had culminated in a no-life of drugs and booze. Both factors were predominant at the bash. Beer, whisky and tequila provided the means to wash down the "dessert tray" of placydills, dilaudids, valium, mandrex and more.

"On top of all this I had been doing a considerable amount of coke and bathtub speed," Karla Faye attested in a 1990 interview with LifeWay Church magazine, recalling the night of her crime. "I didn't usually do speed much; heroin and downers was my preference because I am a very hyper person and doing speed always 'skitzed' me out - made me go crazy...(That night) we were cooking speed, and we started shooting it because it was there, and I loved the needle in my arm - what one would call a needle freak."

Much of the talk at the party centered around the recent marital break-up of mutual friends Shawn and Jerry Lynn Dean. Dismal, Shawn attended the party, beaten with a busted nose and lip; she had left her biker husband a week earlier after he had physically abused her for what would turn out to be the last time. Because Shawn was Karla Faye's best friend, the latter stewed throughout the evening, threatening to drive to Jerry's apartment to beat him up.

"I saw what he had done to (Shawn), and I was really mad (because) I was really protective of her," Karla Faye told LifeWay. "I thought, 'Yeah, I'll get even with him!' My idea of getting even with him meant confronting him, standing toe to toe, fist to fist."

As the party progressed, the bitter feelings raged; the pills added to the animosity and the excitement of the very night itself seemed to heat up Karla Faye's anger. While most of the people at the party were enjoying the haze of their own smoky brain and the absolute nakedness of whomever happened to be beside them on the floor, Karla Faye, Danny, Shawn and another friend Jimmy Leibrant retreated to a corner in the kitchenette to slur their vehemence over wife-beater Dean. Their intention was revenge, but at that point the kitchen table dialogue just spoke in generalities - in terms of kicking ass and doing something to the bastard that he'd never forget. Eventually sister Kari and her friend Ronnie joined the conversation and the threats melted into sardonic laughter, eventually fading into idle, tough talk that dissipated as the last of the capsules were downed and the final inhalations of the final joints were savored.

Danny had to leave the party mid-evening, Sunday, June 13, to go to work. He was a bartender at a local gin mill and had spent the last couple of hours sobering enough to perform his job half-heartedly, half-consciously. Karla Faye drove him the few blocks, promising to pick him up at 2 a.m. when the tavern closed. When the couple left the house, they bid goodbye to the few who sauntered out with them for home, giggling at the lost weekend, and stepped over the remaining half-nude bodies passed out on the floor. There was no need to awaken them.

After dropping off Danny, Karla Faye returned to find Shawn more down than before. She had sunk into a reverie of love-and-hate for her husband. A bottle of tequila askew on her lap, she whimpered to Ronnie and anyone else caring to listen how she wanted him taken care of and that she still adored him. At last, she slumbered, a half scorn and half smile taunting her lips. Ronnie fell asleep beside her.

Kari soon announced that she needed to go out and make some money - she was a prostitute and knew the corner in that part of town where pickups were a cinch - and teetered outside in that direction. Waiting for Danny to finish work, Karla Faye and Leibrant resumed their loathing of Jerry Lynn Dean.

Karla Faye's dislike for the 27-year-old Dean stretched back several months when she first moved here to the Quay Points district in Houston. She knew that Shawn had married the man on a fling and the first time she brought him over turned out to be the first time Karla Faye hated him. Arriving home after being gone all day, she found that Dean had had the nerve to roll his Harley Davidson inside her home for safety's sake. Never a candidate for Good Housekeeping's woman of the year, Karla Faye nevertheless angered to see the motorcycle with its dripping oil pan leaning against her television set and emanating stale fumes. Despite Shawn being her friend, she asked the couple to leave. Words passed between the biker and Karla Faye, then simmered for the presence of Shawn.

Since that time, the few instances Karla Faye and Dean met by chance brought locked horns. It was a personality clash; the girl simply disliked him, he disliked the girl. As Karla Faye admitted to LifeWay, they fought to fight. "One time he was sitting in his car outside and I punched him in the eye for just being there."

The relationship grew irreparable. Shawn continuing to see her girlfriend against her husband's wishes added to the feud, and Dean used every chance he could to deride Karla Faye to his wife. Shawn, never one to keep secrets, even confessed to the other that hubby had come across a picture she owned of Karla Faye and her mother that he seemed to take great pleasure in stabbing through with a butcher knife.


Just before 2 a.m., Jimmy Leibrant joined Karla Faye to fetch live-in Danny at work. Outside, the weather cooked, still crisp from a humid day. Maybe some of the effects of that weekend's binge were beginning to wane, but both were beginning to notice little things like the hot night wind that blew across their noses or the supreme quietude of Quay Point tonight. By moonlight, Quay Point looked more dingy than ever, and they laughed at that fact, resolute to their positions in life.

But, neither was in a jocular mood. Both were wired. Getting into her bomb of a car, Karla Faye expressed her desire to strip and dive into the water-filled quarry across the street - to flail, to kick, to bust out, to move! Jimmy, too, said he wanted to leap from his skin. Jimmy's bones remained in his hide and Karla Faye remained in her jeans. Instead, she drummed the motor and pointed its trembling hood ornament in the direction of the bar where they knew Danny was just locking up.

"I have an idea!" Danny chuckled as he slid into the passenger seat beside his woman. "Been giving the situation some thought, and I say we go, tonight, now, to steal the sunuvabitch's Jerry Dean's bike!" The other two awed at the idea; they knew that there was no greater insult to a biker than to mess with his machine. On the way home, they discussed their plan.

They would go tonight, while the idea was fresh and, let's face it, while they were still pent-up with vengeance. Karla Faye knew Dean's apartment well -- on the ground floor of one of those cheap dumps down the road that looked more like a transient hotel than an apartment building. The kind of neighborhood, like Quay Point, where cops preferred not to cruise unless they really had to. The joint would be easy to break into; and Dean would probably be fast asleep by now. He was known to smoke a couple of joints before hitting the hay, to relax. More than likely, he would be fast asleep.

Back at their place, they found Shawn awake again, though drowsy. She concurred that her husband would be counting Zs and, when hearing the details of their raid, wished the would-be robbers good luck. It would teach the bastard a lesson, she said. Danny, Jimmy and Karla changed clothes, dressing entirely in black. On their way out the door, Danny directed Jimmy to grab a shotgun he kept hidden under the sofa; once in the car, Danny took a .38. from the glove compartment and dropped into one of his boots. The weapons, Karla Faye later explained, were meant for protection in the area they were headed, not to use against anyone.

At that time, she continued, they had yet no intention to kill Jerry Lynn Dean.

Drawing their auto aside, lights off, into the lot adjacent to Dean's front door, the trio emerged. Karla Faye noted that the street out front the place was dimly lit. "We might not even take the damn thing tonight if there are any people roaming around inside the halls or something," Danny told them. "But, we have to case the joint first. At least we'll get a fairly good look to see how easy the bike'll be to steal."

Danny ordered Jimmy to remain outside to keep an eye out for cops while he and Karla Faye would attempt to snap the front door lock. Keeping with the shadows, they approached the front door - the light overhead the awning was out -- that was good! - and Danny wiggled the doorknob in his hand. Pushing it inward with a grunt, something clicked and the door swung inward.

The couple edged in, nudging the door closed behind them. It wedged against the jam, having tilted under Danny's stress. In the dark, they knew they had hit gold, for they could detect the rancid odor of gasoline, mixed with the stale leather and cold metal. The smell meant motorcycle. Yet, they waited before proceeding further into the room; from the hint of a foyer, they held their breath to listen. No sound. No sound. Peering into the darkness; the shadows petrified. No movement. No movement.

Danny's fingers grappled his jacket lining for the flashlight somewhere in an inner pocket, then pointed its beam straight ahead. Silver handlebars of a motorcycle glistened; even in the tangerine light one could see they were highly polished. Moving down, the ray caught the signature in chrome, decorating the gas tank: Harley Davidson.

The rod was partially disassembled. One wheel and other parts lie strewn on a dirty tarpaulin stretched across the floor. Karla Faye, her eyes following the meager beam of light as Danny ran it past various angles of the room, scorned at the filthiness of the apartment. Dean's living room not only smelled like a garage, it looked like one. An open tool box lay beside the bike, a potpourri of greasy tools left out of place, scattered everywhere, even on some of the furniture. She couldn't figure out why he would need a shovel and a pickaxe, but those two instruments leaned against the farthest wall.

At first she was disappointed to find the bike in pieces, but then quickly reasoned that since it was impossible to steal the bike in whole, she could just as easily cripple the renovation job Dean obviously took great pride in by snatching some of the main components.

Her thoughts barely manifested when a square of light pierced the blackness from a doorway beside them. Karla Faye gasped. It was Dean's bedroom, and he had flicked on the light! Staring, waiting for his hulk to fill the doorway, the intruders saw the foot-end of a bed protruding into view and could hear the squeak of its mattress.

"Who the hell is out there?" Dean's all-too-familiar growl.

Karla Faye felt herself waver; one foot aimed for the front door, the other toes dug in defiantly for a fight. Her hands clenched into fists. While she froze in this confusion, Danny had already reacted. He had grabbed a hammer from beside the toolbox and was now racing, hammer out front, for the bedroom. Karla Faye followed instinctively. From the doorway of the room, she watched Danny's weapon strike the figure of Dean who had half-risen from the covers. The blow, which had struck his head, jolted him backwards. Blood crept from each nostril, then from the corners of his mouth. Not hesitating, Danny dealt a series of more whacks to the head that sent a thudding, almost dull, echo throughout the room. Karla Faye found the violence thrilling. Her thighs tingled.

The sight she saw was evil, it was wicked and totally sinfully, brutally magnetic. She wanted to partake of the sacrifice and roll in the wantonness, to rip free her emotions that screamed to be unchained. Danny's bludgeons continued, for he seemed to be releasing his own frustrations. There was no role for her in this ritual - until she saw the girl almost buried under the covers beside the other side of the bed where she had slipped and was now attempting to hide herself.

Shawn's whelps still black and blue and already he's got a tramp in bed! Damn bitch, I'll kill her!

Reaching back into the living room, Karla Faye grabbed the first murderous thing she saw, that pick-axe, three feet long and easy to the grip. Effortlessly, she lifted it, and returned to the chamber already smelling of blood. Danny, his senses satiated for the moment, paused to watch what his girl was doing, followed her curious movements as she circled the bed and raised the axe overhead. Now, for the first time; it was his turn to watch her as she swooped the pick in an arc, tearing the blade through the torso of the cowering female. "Let her have it!" he cheered. Seeing that Dean's skull was thoroughly flattened, Danny stood as spectator to Karla Faye's grand performance.

The girl, whom would later be identified as Deborah Thornton, had screamed only once and began to gurgle. The gurgling annoyed Karla Faye, so she gave it to her again and again in the chest, legs, stomach and shoulders. The more the body seemed to quiver, the more Karla Faye struck to stop its trembling. As the carcass turned to mush, blood splattered upward and across the room, onto the murderess.

"Yuck!" she mimicked, but delighted in the sensation. Danny threw a blanket over her head, daring her to hit the target blindfolded. "Like a pinata!" he rooted. And the killing became a game. Under the darkness of the cover, Karla Faye's senses became more acute; she could hear the whoosh of the axe as it fell, could hear the squish-squish of the blade penetrating soft, wet flesh. Ecstasy! Although she denied it later, she would tell friends that the excitement generated a triple orgasm, the likes of which she had never before experienced.

Karla Faye Tucker had busted loose.

When she had finished with Thornton, empowered by the deviancy, she finished off Dean with another twenty blows.

Before they left the scene of the crime, Danny left the pickaxe impaled in Deborah Thornton's heart.


The next day was like any other for the murderers. They remembered very little and, well, what happened had been a small affair. A bastard and a bitch gone to hell. Their dispatchers didn't run, and saw no need to hide. It was a small affair.

In a taped interview with Larry King, Karla Faye, shunning the details of the murder, nevertheless recalled that, "I not only didn't walk around with any guilt, I was proud of thinking I had finally measured up to the big boys." Apart from that initial pride, the only deep sense she may have experienced after the murder was lethargy. "I didn't care about anybody...I didn't place any value on myself or anybody else."

The landlord discovered the murder victims; police were called in; an investigation began. It didn't take law officers long to connect the bodies to the killers. Cops learned with whom they associated and started asking questions. Everyone at the party had learned about what Karla Faye and Danny had done - hell they had bragged about their deed! When the police started getting rough, everyone who knew anything talked. Danny's brother talked. Kari Tucker talked. Shawn talked. Even Jimmy Leibrant, when he was nabbed, talked. He hadn't been involved, said he, but waited outside for what was supposed to be a burglary.

Throughout the days of the trial to come, Leibrant turned state's evidence to walk away free.

Karla Faye Tucker would be sentenced to death. So would Danny Garrett.

Garrett died in prison a few years later.

Karla Faye would live long enough to repent - and become Texas' most controversial figure ever on any state's death row.

Early Days, Dark Days

Karla Faye Tucker was born in Houston, Harris County, Texas on November 18, 1959. Life started out normal enough for the doll-faced little brunette with large almond eyes and a set of dimpled cheeks. By the time she came into the world, the Tuckers already had two daughters, Kari Ann, one year old, and Kathi Lynne, two, and a German shepherd who was child-friendly. Larry, her father, was a longshoreman in the Gulf of Mexico and her mother, Carolyn, a home mom. Karla Faye's earliest years were happiest.

As a family unit, the Tuckers often vacationed in a small cottage they owned on Caney Creek in Brazoria, Texas. "I was an itty-bitty girl...we were family, and we used to go to the bay house and do neat things with the boat and dog and water skiing and fishing and stuff, but it didn't last very long," she told former Miss America Terry Meeuwsen during a Christian Broadcasting Network in the 1990s.

Mr. and Mrs. Tucker had an on-again, off-again marriage, literally. They divorced and remarried several times, trying to make a go of it, but each time they would regress. Each time it was because of infidelity. The three daughters felt the sting of the breakups, only to rejoice at the reunions, only to be torn asunder again when the parents' union did so. When Karla Faye was ten, the final dissolution took place. It was messy.

"I didn't know why my parents divorced; I was too young to know," she told LifeWay Church magazine who featured her story in a 1990 edition. "My dad got custody of us girls, and we all wanted to go with Mother...My father couldn't control us real good. He tried to discipline us, but we were just too much, just too much."

The divorce only added to a number of personal problems Karla Faye was already experiencing at a young age. For one, she had always felt like the ugly duckling between two blonde-haired, blue-eyed, fair-skinned siblings. Also, she was extremely self-conscious about a large birthmark on her arm. She found it hard to communicate with other kids in school and those who played up and down Hewitt Street where she lived.

During final divorce proceedings, which seemed like an eternity to a young child caught up in the midst of the battling, Karla found out exactly why she did not look like Kari and Kathi. Her mother admitted to her that she was the result of an extramarital affair. Even though her father had accepted Karla Faye as his own, the third daughter from that moment on never psychologically could convince herself that she belonged to the Tuckers, as real kids Kathi and Kari belonged.

Karla Faye Tucker wanted a family, so she did what all other children do when their own isn't definable: looked for one elsewhere.

By the time she was 10 years old she had been smoking marijuana for nearly a year, a recreation introduced by her sisters. Finding that maryjane was not companion enough to make her feel like the somebody she wanted to feel like, she tried the harder stuff. Before she was eleven, she was shooting heroin.

"The influence of others - peer pressure," Karla Faye explained to Ms. Meeuwson. "My sisters were into drugs and they had a friend who was older; they always hung around with older people. There was a lot of drugs."

There  was sex, too, at an age when other girls still played with dolls. Because she went where her sisters went, she began hanging out with the same crowd. The clique largely consisted of bikers, chief among them a neighborhood gang called the Banditos. This "club" often conducted drug fests that ended in orgies. Karla Faye present at some of these parties, even though initially not a participant, took mental notes wide-eyed and, in the process, learned that the birds and the bees could make quite interesting study.

Her first contact with sex came when she was twelve. One evening she happened to stop by one of the member's houses looking for her sisters, who, she discovered, weren't there. The biker talked her into joining him on a high. After they shot up, he took her for a ride on his bike to a secluded spot where he had his way with the pre-teen. She liked it and learned that "sex on high" was the ultimate trip.

She had found a family. It brought her bright colors, a buzz in the head and a warm feeling all over her body.

And a sense of belonging.

Dysfunctionality roared. Under her father's custody, Karla Faye was expected to walk the straight and narrow, but he was rarely home to supervise. He worked two shifts, was gone late into the evening, and his daughters took full advantage of their liberty. Karla Faye dropped out of school in the middle of the seventh grade without much parental disapproval. When in her mother's care, the straight and narrow often curved, like the time her mother discovered the girl sneaking a maryjane in her bedroom. Instead of lecturing the adolescent as her dad would have done, Mrs. Tucker scolded her on her inability to pack a smooth joint. Then instructed her on the fine art of rolling.

Then again, consider Mama Tucker was not June Cleaver. To make ends meet after the divorce, she drifted, if at first hesitantly, into prostitution. Being yet in her twenties and still blossoming of a noble housewife, she found her place in the profession of the call girl a lucrative one. She was the girl next-door oozing temptation.

When Carolyn Tucker inherited a Karla Faye whom her ex-husband could no longer handle, she may have at first worried how she could carry on her productive trade from her Genoa, Texas, apartment in the presence of a teenager. Evidently, according to Karla Faye, Mama devised a solution beneficial to all.

Karla was to testify later: "(My mother) took me to a place where there was all men and wanted to school me in the art of being a call girl. I wanted to please my mother so much. I wanted her to be proud of me. So, instead of saying no, I just tried to do what she asked...The thing is, I knew deep down inside that what I was doing was wrong."

Karla Faye Tucker became a prostitute at age 14.

After a while, it no longer seemed sordid. Especially when she accompanied her mother, an inveterate rock groupie, on concert tours state to state. Highlights of this period included personal meetings with the Allman Brothers, the Marshall Tucker Band and the Eagles. For a teenager who didn't know how to handle it, and hadn't heard of the word 'moderation,' life was enchanting, nevermind that the speed and the booze might catch up.

When Karla Faye was sixteen, she met and wed Stephen Griffith, a mechanic. On the surface, the marriage appeared happy. Griffith thought it was. He liked his wife's tomboyish quality, her feistiness, and even though they fought constantly he always saw her more as a friend first, which he considered healthy in any marriage. She wasn't one to hold in her feelings. He appreciated that.

"We fist-fought a lot," he told the Houston Chronicle. "I've never had men hit me as hard as she did. Whenever I went into a bar, I didn't have to worry because she had my back covered."

But, underneath, wifey fidgeted. The things she and Griffith did together -- get high, get drunk, make love and war -- all were old hat to her. She needed to be free, to let the colt run and maybe run around in circles until it was daft. But, at least the result would be her choice. Not her mother's, not her father's, not her sister's.

She left Griffith.

It was then that she met her friend Shawn Dean who, in turn, introduced her to Danny Garrett. Working late hours as a prostitute in Quay Point, Karla Faye found Garrett an easy companion. She was free to run around in those circles. More so, Garrett asked no questions and respected her "career". Better still, he sustained her habit of pills and powder.

Legal Tactics, Back and Forth

Tucker and Garrett were indicted for the murders of Jerry Lynn Dean and Deborah Thornton in September, 1983. The alleged killers were tried separately. Of Karla Faye's trial, the state vowed to its full extent despite her gender, despite the fact that the death penalty was normally not sought for female defendants.

CourtTV Online records, "(Karla Faye) entered a plea of not guilty and was tried before a jury in the 180th Judicial District Court of Harris County, Texas, Judge Patricia Lykos, presiding. Voir dire (jury selection) commenced on March 2, 1984, and concluded on April 9. Testimony began on April 11 and concluded on April 18. Final arguments were heard on April 19, 1984. A verdict of guilty of the offense of capital murder was returned the same day."

Garrett was found guilty, also, in a subsequent court trial. Both he and his accomplice/girlfriend were sentenced to death before the end of the year. It had been a set of speedy trials, both party's defense teams unable to overcome the profusion of witnesses against their clients and the sickening violence of the crimes.

Garrett would die in prison not long after his conviction, of liver disease. But, Karla Faye Tucker would endure a waiting game of appeal after appeal directed to the state penal directors, to the Supreme Court and eventually to the Governor of Texas. All bodies would refuse her requests and George W. Bush, the governor in whose hands clemency rested, would reject her. The prisoner would spend, in all, 14 years in prison only to walk the last mile she had tried so long to avoid. She would be executed February 3, 1998.

After her sentence, Karla Faye was removed from Houston to death row at Mountain View Prison in Gatesville, Texas. From the moment of her incarceration until the day she died, her world would consist of her cell, which she shared with fellow inmate Pam Perillo, and the cavernous halls of the single death row building in the Mountain View compound. Besides a few friendly guards, her only neighbors would be less than ten other women, like Perillo, slated for the same fate as she: a dose of lethal injection. Condemned convicts were not allowed to mix with the prison's general population; the outside world was visible only through the criss-cross bars of her cell. Its only ingress was the wind and the rain that sometimes inadvertently blew in through the windowsill.

Her hopes for release were unrealistic, and she knew it; she had sealed her future with multiple swipes of a pickaxe on two human beings. But, she [did] fight to escape her death sentence, her reasoning being that the murder she committed had not been premeditated, premeditation being a requisite for capital punishment in Texas. When interviewed by chat-host Larry King two weeks before her death, she suggested that bad advice from her lawyers had nudged her into her no-hope predicament.

"I did not plead guilty at the beginning of my trial," she divulged, "but only because my attorneys had said not to. If I had that to do again, I would. "Had she pleaded guilty at the outset, the messy revelations of the trial would have been avoided, all the bad press and past digging, and she may have, she believed, drawn a maximum life sentence term.

After all, she had already confessed before the trial began. As she told King, "(Up to) that point, I had already admitted what I did...already told the truth about everything."


Early attempts in 1984 by Karla Faye's lawyers for a retrial were denied by Judge Lykos. Further remonstrations to the Court of Criminal Appeals to overrule their client's conviction and sentence fell on equally deaf ears in 1987 and 1988. On June 25, 1989, the U.S. Supreme Court turned down her motion for appeal.

In the face of these disappointments, Karla Faye and her representing legal team utilized every lawful channel open to them to rescue her. The 1990s were to be her battleground, a time when the nation was learning to be more aware of the rights of Man and the tonsils of the media were sprayed heavily with the mouthwash of "political correctness". Reform groups in every state that practiced capital punishment upraised religious and governmental spokespersons from among their cities to preach the cruelties and horrors of the electric chair, the gas chamber and the needle.

Karla Faye and her plight became controversial. Not only did factions question her legal cause to die (they claimed that the court never proved premeditation), but while she waited to die, Karla Faye Tucker had found religion. Even her doubters admitted that her attitude had vastly changed from the rebellious thing she had been when first hauled into court. As her battle for life waged on, two sides of the story emerged: While the one side quipped that anyone on death row would pose religiously to save their neck, the other answered that that surface kind of faith could not endure above bitterness, but that, in truth, she continued to spiritually grow.

But Texas, a state known for its firm-ground stand on capital punishment, didn't waver even though -- as its antagonists reminded the state -- it hadn't executed a woman since the Civil War. According to CourtTV Online, "Applicant (Tucker) repeatedly sought an evidentiary hearing in the trial court to address the issues raised (in her earlier petitions)...arguing that the affidavits submitted by trial counsel were wholly insufficient." In February 1992, Judge Lykos rejected the request for a new hearing. Rather, she set a tentative date (June30) for execution.

A month later, the defense (a pair of new lawyers) won a victory to stay the execution through the Court of Appeals to give them more time to protest the latest rulings. "On June 22," CourtTV resumes, " the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals...ordered that an evidentiary hearing be conducted 'at which time the applicant will have an opportunity to prove allegations ten through twelve'...of the amended petition. (The allegations cited that Jimmy Leibrant, who had been with Garrett and Tucker the night of the murder, and who walked away free, had committed perjury on the stand.) Although the order directed Judge Lykos to hold an evidentiary hearing only on the perjury claims, three judges of the Court of Criminal Appeals were of the view that an evidentiary hearing should also be conducted on the ineffective assistance of counsel claims...

"On July 6 and 7, 1992, the partial evidentiary hearing was held before Judge Lykos (who) made it clear that the hearing was limited solely to the evidentiary matters relating to James Leibrant. On November 19, 1992, (the judge) filed her 'Supplemental Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law and Order,' which was submitted to the Court of Appeals. (This report) addressed all of the claims contained in Applicant's pleadings, even though a hearing was held only on the claims relating to James Leibrant."

In the meantime, even though a response from the appellate court had not yet been returned, Judge Lykos again ordered an execution date for Karla Faye Tucker. Members of the appellate court, in turn, crushed the order and directed Lykos and the Department of Corrections to honor the stay of execution in effect until they had made their decision on the findings of the evidentiary hearing.

It took many months for an answer to come from the Court of Criminal Appeals, but when it did it was bad news for the supplicant: They would not alter the initial verdict, after all. Simultaneously, they lifted her stay of execution.

Judge Lykos' handling of the evidentiary hearing, coupled with her drive to schedule a date for execution, riled those in the nation who were campaigning hot against capital punishment to begin with. With the clock winding down, Karla Faye's lawyers utilized the little that was left them for reprieve, doubtlessly hoping that the clamor of public sentiment might aid their cause to commute her sentence to life. They appealed once again to the Texas appellates and the district courts in Houston to "challenge the constitutionality of the state's clemency procedure," says CourtTV Online. "In the 155-page court document, Tucker's lawyers repeatedly stressed that (she) was fully rehabilitated (and) posed no future threat to society." Attached to this petition were sizeable documentia supporting the premise that, during the years of her incarceration, she had become a socially safe and faith-conscious citizen.

Included in the package were testimonies of various professionals and laypersons who had encountered Karla Faye throughout the trial and imprisonment process; these people offered their opinions on her readjustment to normalcy, her religious conversion and her present character. Witnesses on her behalf included, among others, a psychiatrist, a drug-abuse expert, a deputy sheriff and a prison chaplain. Some clinicians seriously doubted that she really knew what she was doing the night of the murder because of the drugs she had taken; others claimed that her formative years led her head-on into a crash course of some kind that could not have been avoided.

Underscoring the message of the petition - that she was now a God-fearing human being and model prisoner -- Karla Faye herself wrote a letter addressed directly to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Governor George Bush. Both parties had control over her fate, although the governor would lack the power of clemency without the majority affirmation of the board.

Following is the letter, excerpted:

"I am in no way attempting to minimize the brutality of my crime. It obviously was very, very horrible and I do take full responsibility for what happened...I also know that justice and law demand my life for the two innocent lives I brutally murdered that night. If my execution is the only thing, the final act that can fulfill the demand for restitution for justice, then I accept that...I will pay the price for what I did in any way our law demands it...

"It was...three months after I had been locked up, when a ministry came to the jail and I went to the services, that night accepting Jesus into my heart. When I did this, the full and overwhelming weight and reality of what I had done hit me...I began crying that night for the first time in many years, and to this day, tears are part of my life...

"Fourteen years ago, I was part of the problem. Now I am part of the solution.

"I have purposed to do right for the last 14 years, not because I am in prison, but because my God demands this of me. I know right from wrong and I must do right...

"I don't really understand the guidelines for commutation of death sentences, but I can promise you this: If you commute my sentence to life, I will continue for the rest of my life in this earth to reach out to others to make a positive difference in their lives.

"I see people in here in the prison where I am who are here for horrible crimes...I can reach out to these girls and try to help them change before they walk out of this place and hurt someone else.

"I am seeking you to commute my sentence and allow me to pay society back by helping others. I can't bring back the lives I took. But I can, if I am allowed, help save lives. That is the only real restitution I can give."

The parole board was unmoved. Governor Bush was unmoved. On January 28, 1998, the appellate court denied clemency for Karla Faye Tucker.`

Her execution was scheduled for the coming week, February 3.

Heaven in Spite of Hell

Evangelist and author Linda Strom often visited Karla Faye Tucker throughout the last decade of her life at Mountain View's death row. Strom's recently published book, Karla Faye Tucker Set Free, relates the inmate's ongoing conversion to religion and attests that Karla Faye died fully repentant of her crime.

According to Strom, Karla Faye had found what she called "the power of forgiveness" when still in Harris County Jail, Houston, awaiting her sentencing. A minister had visited the jail and Karla Faye, attending his services, took a Bible back to her cell more for reading material than as a gesture of faith. But, over the next few days, reading the Holy Book for the first time, she began to realize a strength she never thought she had, enough to carry her through her coming trial and sentencing. By the time she arrived at death row, she had become a spiritual lift to other prisoners there, who found her upbeat attitude a light in the dark.

Recalling Karla, Strom writes, "Not only did Karla see people, she listened to them with her head and her heart...Her words - both her spoken ones and written ones - packed a wallop and were always encouraging."

In 1995, Karla Faye married Dana Lane Brown, a member of a prison ministry group. Because she was on death row and not permitted to attend ceremonies, Brown married her through proxy in Waco, Texas. The event drew media attention because of the notoriety of capital punishment, Karla Faye being its inherent spokesperson. She had already been the subject of much print expended on the cause from columnists, women's rights activists and politicians, both for and against the issue. During her confinement, she had been visited by various celebrities who believed her conversion to be genuine, including ex-Miss America and broadcaster Terry Meeuwsen, and author of Dead Man Walking, Catholic nun Sister Helen Prejean.

Newt Gingrich championed her cause, and so did evangelist Pat Robertson. Robertson tried for five years to remove her from death row, his efforts culminating with a plea for her life on a live television broadcast. At a press conference hosted by the Christian Broadcasting Network, he said, "I am one who has supported the death penalty for hardened criminals. But I do think that any justice system that is worthy of the name must have room for mercy...In the case of Karla Faye Tucker, she is not the same person who committed those heinous ax murders...She is totally transformed, and I think to execute her is more an act of vengeance than it is appropriate justice."

A frequent and surprising visitor to Mountain View Prison was Ron Carlson, brother of Karla Faye Tucker's female victim, Deborah Thornton. At first a rabid crusader for her death, Carlson, like Tucker, found religion and, in the interim, absolution.

His story is highlighted in the 1999 video, The Power of Forgiveness, produced by Gateway Films and presented by Vision Video. The documentary traces Carlson's life his experiences from the anguish he suffered when first learning of his sister's murder and climaxes when he visits an unexpected Karla Faye Tucker in prison.

"It made me sick to know what they did to my sister," Carlson recalls his feelings the day after the killing. "The bodies were mutilated...some twenty-five to thirty puncture wounds on each body...My sister was in the wrong place at the wrong time."

He remembers months of wishing, night and day, that he would someday have the opportunity to kill Karla Faye; he wished he could have her at his mercy, with a pickaxe in his hands. Already having experimented with drugs, the loathing drove him deeper into the practice until his life no longer resembled what it had been before the tragedy.

States he: "I knew I had to do something with the hatred and the anger that was within me. It was consuming me."

Strangely, as did the woman he despised, he found his faith in the Bible. Reading about the crucifixion of Christ, he realized the reality of the tests everyone is put to in this life. "I learned that if I want to be forgiven, I must learn to forgive," he attests.

Seeking audience with Karla Faye who hadn't known who he was until he identified himself, he leaned toward the Plexiglas window, which separated inmates from their callers, then gently told her who he was and that he forgave her for what she had done. "She cried," says Carlson.

From that one visit they became friends; he visited her often at Mountain View.

The video also examines the flip side of this human reaction through Deborah Thornton's husband, Richard. Until the day Karla Faye was executed, Richard was her most outspoken adversary. On the day she died, he led a group of friends and relatives to the walls beyond the prison to jeer and cheer; handmade signs held aloft directed the condemned inmate to: Have a Nice Day, Karla Faye.

To a cluster of reporters Richard appraised the situation. "This is the day Karla Faye Tucker will die...This is Deborah Thornton Day...What goes around, comes around."

And of her religious conversion, he scoffed. Pointing to the crowds behind him, he replied, "If everyone of you were to get transcripts of the 1984 trial and compare it to what Karla Faye Tucker says today you'd have no problem understanding that that woman is lying."

An Eye for An Eye

Late afternoon, February 3, 1998, Governor George W. Bush closed the door on the last breath of hope for Karla Faye. He denied a 30-day delay to the execution set for later that evening. A press release issued from the Governor's Mansion stated, "Many people have contacted my office about this execution. I respect (their) strong convictions (but) Karla Faye Tucker has acknowledged she is guilty of a horrible crime. She was convicted and sentenced by a jury of her peers. The role of the state is to enforce our laws...The courts, including the United States Supreme Court, have reviewed the legal issues in this case, and therefore I will not grant a 30-day stay. May God bless Karla Faye Tucker and may God bless her victims and their families."

Karla Faye Tucker died an hour later.

In preparation for her death, while the reprieve from the governor was still pending, officials removed the prisoner from Mountain View and delivered her by plane to Huntsville State Prison, where the state's execution chamber is located. Chatting briefly with reporters, she remained what CNN U.S. News termed "upbeat," dining on a last meal comprised of "a banana, a peach and a salad". With her were her husband Dana Brown and a few family members and friends. Visibly comforting her as the appointed time of her execution (6:30 p.m. CST) drew near was Ron Carlson, Deborah Thornton's forgiving brother. Dressed in the white uniform of Mountain View, Karla Faye had declined donning the orange work suits usually worn by condemned prisoners in Huntsville.

Relaying her to her death would be a lethal injection, a blend of quick-acting barbiturate and paralytic drug, fed intravenously. Texas, which adopted this form of capital punishment in 1977, is one of 27 states employing it. Other states utilize electric voltage, gas, rope or firing squad as life-taking means.

According to API writer Michael Graczyk, "Asked what her thoughts would be when strapped to the death chamber gurney, (Karla Faye) replied, 'I'm certainly going to be thinking about what it's like in heaven.'"

Huntsville received the news of Governor Bush's rejection at approximately 5:25 p.m., at which time it was relayed to Karla Faye. She was given solitude to pray and bid goodbye to her intimate company. Before the hour ended, prison personnel and a minister approached her cell to lead her through a white-washed door at the farthest end of the corridor. Beyond that door, was the death chamber.

It is a cubicle really, of sterile white and bright lights, resembling a doctor's examining room, but with one-way viewing glass on two sides for spectators and a stark array of paraphernalia whose purpose is not subtly concealed.

That evening, while her loved ones peered in sorrowfully from one waiting area, opposite them stood members of her victim's families, feeling less pity. Allowed a moment for last words, she sat on the gurney to which, in a few moments she would be bound with leather restraining straps, and addressed reflective windows knowing that beyond their glare waited and watched those with tears and those without.

"I would like to say to all of you, the Thornton family and Jerry Dean's family, that I am so sorry. I hope God will give you peace with this." She then whispered a farewell to her husband and thanked the warden for his kindness to her in her last hours.

Even as she was uttering her final good-byes, the attendants were already attaching the tubes to her wrists and buckling her. "When she was finished, Ms. Tucker closed her eyes, licked her lips and appeared to say a silent prayer," Graczyk noted. "She coughed twice, groaned softly and went silent as the drugs took effect."

Karla Faye busted loose.


115 F.3d 276

Karla Faye Tucker, Petitioner-appellant,
Gary L. Johnson, Director, Texas Department of Criminal Justice,
Institutional Division, Respondent-appell

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit.

June 3, 1997.
As Corrected on Grant of Rehearing July 2, 1997

George McCall Secrest, Jr., Bennett, Secrest & Meyers, Houston, TX, David L. Botsford, Austin, TX, for petitioner-appellant.

Margaret Portman Griffey, Austin, TX, for respondent-appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas.

Before SMITH, DUHE and BARKSDALE, Circuit Judges.

JERRY E. SMITH, Circuit Judge:


Since the panel opinion was issued in this case, see Tucker v. Johnson, 115 F.3d 276 (5th Cir.1997), the Supreme Court has held §§ 101-106 of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act ("AEDPA") of 1996, Pub.L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214, 1217-21 (1996) (codified at 28 U.S.C. §§ 2244, 2253-2254), inapplicable to habeas corpus petitions filed before the act's effective date of April 24, 1996. See Lindh v. Murphy, --- U.S. ----, 117 S.Ct. 2059, 138 L.Ed.2d 481 (1997).1 As petitioner's habeas petition predated the act, she is not subject to it.


The standard for granting a certificate of appealability ("COA") under the AEDPA, see 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2), is the same as the standard for granting a certificate of probable cause, see 28 U.S.C.A. § 2253 (West 1994), under our pre-AEDPA jurisprudence. See Drinkard v. Johnson, 97 F.3d 751, 756 (5th Cir.1996), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 117 S.Ct. 1114, 137 L.Ed.2d 315 (1997). Nonetheless, we did consider the deferential standards of the AEDPA in making our determination whether to grant a COA. See Tucker, 115 F.3d 276, 280.


Although we ultimately conclude that Tucker is not entitled to an appeal under the pre-AEDPA standards of review, Lindh substantially changes our reasoning. Accordingly, treating Tucker's suggestion for rehearing en banc as a petition for panel rehearing, we grant rehearing, withdraw our prior opinion, and substitute the following:


Karla Tucker, proceeding in forma pauperis, appeals the denial of her petition for writ of habeas corpus. Concluding that she has failed to make a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right, we deny her a certificate of appealability ("COA").


On June 12, 1983, Tucker spent most of the day using drugs and alcohol with her boyfriend, Danny Garrett ("Danny"); her sister, Kari Burrell ("Kari"); Kari's ex-husband, Ronnie Burrell ("Ronnie"); and James Leibrant. Kari and Ronnie left in the evening. In the early morning hours of June 13, Tucker, Danny, and Leibrant decided to go to Jerry Dean's home and steal his motorcycle.


They entered Dean's apartment using a key that Tucker had stolen. In the bedroom, they found Dean and Deborah Thornton. When Dean begged for his life, Tucker began to "pick" him with an axe. She later told Kari that she received sexual gratification with every swing of the axe. At one point, Leibrant entered the bedroom to find Tucker attempting to pull the axe out of Dean by using her foot on him as leverage. After she pulled the axe from his body, she lifted it above her head, smiled at Leibrant, and swung it into Dean again.


Tucker and Danny then used the axe on Thornton until, when Thornton begged for the end, Danny embedded the axe in her throat. Danny and Tucker took Dean's truck, wallet, and motorcycle. They stored the stolen property with Danny's brother, Doug Garrett ("Doug").


Tucker boasted about her actions to Kari and Doug and expressed pleasure while watching a television news report about the killings. Kari and Doug went to the police and reported Tucker's statements. Doug was fitted with a hidden microphone and recorded a ninety-minute discussion with Tucker and Danny about the murders.


A jury convicted Tucker of capital murder. See TEX. PENAL CODE ANN. § 19.03(a)(2) (Vernon 1994). At the sentencing phase, the jury was instructed to consider the two statutorily-mandated special issues, as required by then-existing law:


(1) whether the conduct of the defendant that caused the death of the deceased was committed deliberately and with the reasonable expectation that the death of the deceased or another would result;


(2) whether there is a probability that the defendant would commit criminal acts of violence that would constitute a continuing threat to society;




TEX.CODE CRIM. PROC. ANN. art. 37.071(b) (Vernon 1981). The jury answered each special issue in the affirmative, and the court sentenced Tucker to death.


The conviction and sentence were affirmed on direct appeal, see Tucker v. Texas, 771 S.W.2d 523 (Tex.Crim.App.1988) (en banc), whereupon Tucker sought state habeas relief, raising the issues she raises in her federal habeas petition. After a remand to the trial court for an evidentiary hearing, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied habeas relief.


Tucker then filed a federal habeas petition, alleging ineffective assistance of counsel and constitutional errors in the jury instructions and challenging the state's use of Leibrant's testimony at trial.2 The district court granted summary judgment for the state, dismissed the petition, and denied a CPC.


In order to appeal, a habeas petitioner must receive a CPC. See 28 U.S.C. § 2253 (West 1994).3 We may not grant a CPC unless the applicant has made a " 'substantial showing of the denial of [a] federal right.' " Barefoot v. Estelle, 463 U.S. 880, 893, 103 S.Ct. 3383, 3394, 77 L.Ed.2d 1090 (1983) (quoting Stewart v. Beto, 454 F.2d 268, 270 n. 2 (5th Cir.1971)). The petitioner must show "that the issues are debatable among jurists of reason; that a court could resolve the issues [in a different manner]; or that the questions are adequate to deserve encouragement to proceed further." Sawyers v. Collins, 986 F.2d 1493, 1497 (5th Cir.1993) (quoting Barefoot, 463 U.S. at 893 n. 4, 103 S.Ct. at 3394 n. 4) (internal quotation marks omitted).


Tucker's first two issues on appeal are intertwined. First, she argues that trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance of counsel by proposing the voluntary intoxication instruction contained in TEX. PENAL CODE ANN. § 8.04(b) (Vernon 1994). Specifically, counsel requested, and the court gave, the following instruction:


Evidence of temporary insanity of the defendant caused by intoxication may be introduced by the defendant in mitigation of the penalty attached to the offense for which she is being tried.




Temporary insanity caused by intoxication means that the defendant's mental capacity was so disturbed from the introduction of a substance into her body that the defendant did not know that her conduct was wrong or was incapable of conforming her conduct to the requirements of the law she allegedly violated.


Tucker, 771 S.W.2d at 533. She asserts that this instruction prevented the jury from considering the mitigating evidence of intoxication unless that intoxication rose to the level of temporary insanity. But see Drinkard v. Johnson, 97 F.3d 751, 756-64 (5th Cir.1996) (rejecting this argument), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 117 S.Ct. 1114, 137 L.Ed.2d 315 (1997).


Tucker's second argument is that her counsel was ineffective during juror voir dire. Both the prosecution and the defense questioned each juror at length about whether he would be willing to weigh temporary insanity caused by voluntary intoxication as a mitigating factor. Tucker argues that counsel should not have presented this version of the law to the jurors and should have objected to the prosecution's comments.


To establish ineffective assistance, Tucker must demonstrate both deficient performance by her counsel and prejudice resulting from that deficiency. See Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 2064, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984). We compare counsel's performance to an objective standard of reasonableness, mindful of the strong presumption of adequacy. We will not find inadequate representation merely because, with the benefit of hindsight, we disagree with counsel's strategic choices. See Garland v. Maggio, 717 F.2d 199, 206 (5th Cir.1983) (on rehearing).


Applying the prejudice prong in the context of counsel's performance at sentencing, we ask whether the petitioner has demonstrated "a 'reasonable probability' that the jury would not have imposed the death sentence in the absence of errors by counsel." Carter v. Johnson, 110 F.3d 1098, 1110 (5th Cir.1997).4 Failure to establish either prong defeats the claim. See Washington, 466 U.S. at 697, 104 S.Ct. at 2069.


As the state habeas court found, trial counsel's strategy was to "highlight evidence of [Tucker]'s temporary insanity resulting from voluntary intoxication at the time of the offense, rather than evidence of her mere voluntary intoxication which did not result in temporary insanity." Considering the horrific details of the murders and Tucker's own statement that she received sexual gratification from plunging the axe into her victims, trial counsel reasonably could have believed that evidence of mere voluntary intoxication would not persuade the jury to spare Tucker's life.


Counsel's strategy of arguing that Tucker was temporarily insane at the time of the murders was reasonable, though unsuccessful, and easily satisfies the standard for effective assistance. No reasonable jurist would disagree, and Tucker has not made a substantial showing of the denial of a federal right.


Tucker's third contention is that the § 8.04 voluntary intoxication instruction violated the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments because it impermissibly prevented the jury from considering the mitigating effect of non-insane voluntary intoxication. Our analysis of this claim is complicated by the doctrine of procedural default.


A federal habeas court may not consider a state prisoner's claim if the state based its rejection of that claim on an independent and adequate state ground. See Martin v. Maxey, 98 F.3d 844, 847 (5th Cir.1996). The procedural bar will not be considered "adequate" unless it is applied "strictly or regularly" to the "vast majority of similar claims." Amos v. Scott, 61 F.3d 333, 339 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 116 S.Ct. 557, 133 L.Ed.2d 458 (1995).


Tucker challenged the constitutionality of the § 8.04(b) instruction on direct appeal. See Tucker, 771 S.W.2d at 533-34. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied relief because Tucker had requested the instruction, and thus the doctrine of invited error barred her claim. See Capistran v. Texas, 759 S.W.2d 121, 124-25 (Tex.Crim.App. [Panel Op.] 1982) (on rehearing) (explaining the invited error doctrine). The district court refused to address the merits of this claim, reasoning that it was barred by procedural default.


Our determination whether Tucker is entitled to a CPC is complicated by the district court's reliance on the procedural bar. In such cases, we refuse to grant a CPC when the petitioner fails to make a showing that he can overcome the bar. See Jacobs v. Scott, 31 F.3d 1319, 1328 (5th Cir.1994). Even when the petitioner can make such a showing, we still refuse to grant a CPC when the underlying claim is not "debatable among jurists of reason." Sawyers, 986 F.2d at 1502.


A habeas petitioner can overcome a procedural default by showing cause and prejudice for that default. See Murray v. Carrier, 477 U.S. 478, 488, 106 S.Ct. 2639, 2645-46, 91 L.Ed.2d 397 (1986). Tucker argues that counsel's ineffective assistance constitutes cause excusing the procedural default. As we have found that Tucker has not made a substantial showing that counsel was ineffective in requesting the instruction, we must reject this argument. Therefore, because Tucker has not shown that she can overcome the procedural default, we deny her a CPC on this issue.


Tucker's fourth, sixth, and seventh arguments are based on Penry v. Lynaugh, 492 U.S. 302, 109 S.Ct. 2934, 106 L.Ed.2d 256 (1989). She argues that the Texas sentencing scheme, as applied through the jury instructions, was unconstitutional because (1) the jury received no guidance on how to consider mitigating evidence; (2) the court failed to define "deliberately";5 and (3) the jury was prevented from considering her mitigating evidence.


Instructional error of this sort does not amount to a constitutional violation "unless there is a reasonable likelihood that the jury applied the challenged instruction in a way that prevents the consideration of constitutionally relevant mitigating evidence." Lackey v. Scott, 28 F.3d 486, 489 (5th Cir.1994) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Johnson v. Texas, 509 U.S. 350, 367, 113 S.Ct. 2658, 2668, 125 L.Ed.2d 290 (1993)). Furthermore, the mitigating evidence "must demonstrate a 'uniquely severe permanent handicap[ ] with which the defendant was burdened through no fault of his own.' " Turner v. Johnson, 106 F.3d 1178, 1189 (5th Cir.1997) (quoting Graham v. Collins, 950 F.2d 1009, 1029 (5th Cir.1992) (en banc), aff'd, 506 U.S. 461, 113 S.Ct. 892, 122 L.Ed.2d 260 (1993)).


Tucker's mitigating evidence consisted of her (1) history of chronic drug and alcohol abuse from age eight; (2) intoxication at the time of the offence; (3) young age of twenty-three; and (4) arrested emotional development caused by chronic drug use. We have held that intoxication and youth are not valid Penry evidence. See id. (youth); Lackey, 28 F.3d at 489 (voluntary intoxication). Similarly, self-inflicted chronic drug and alcohol abuse and the resulting arrested emotional development do not constitute a unique handicap "with which the defendant was burdened through no fault of his own." Tucker has not made a substantial showing of the denial of a federal right with respect to these claims.


Tucker's fifth contention is that her counsel was ineffective for failing to request a mitigation-of-punishment jury instruction. We have concluded already that Tucker was not entitled to a mitigation-of-punishment instruction and that counsel made a reasonable strategic choice to concentrate the jury's attention on the possibility that Tucker was temporarily insane at the time of the murders. No rational jurist would conclude otherwise.


The application for a CPC is DENIED.


The AEDPA would apply to capital habeas cases pending in a state that had qualified for the expedited procedures set forth in § 107 of the AEDPA, 110 Stat. at 1221-26 (codified at 28 U.S.C. §§ 2261-2266). See Lindh, --- U.S. at ----, 117 S.Ct. at 2063-64. Texas, however, has not yet satisfied § 107's requirements, so the AEDPA does not govern the instant capital habeas case. See Green v. Johnson, 116 F.3d 1115, 1119-20 (5th Cir.1997)


Tucker did not raise the arguments about Leibrant's testimony in her application for a CPC before the district court or before us, so we consider them waived. See Lockhart v. Johnson, 104 F.3d 54, 56 (5th Cir.1997), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 117 S.Ct. 2518, --- L.Ed.2d ---- (1997)


Section 102 of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act ("AEDPA") of 1996, Pub.L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214, 1217-18 (1996) (codified at 28 U.S.C. § 2253), amended 28 U.S.C. § 2253 to require a certificate of appealability ("COA") before a final order in a habeas proceeding can be appealed. In light of Lindh v. Murphy, --- U.S. ----, ----, 117 S.Ct. 2059, 2061-63, 138 L.Ed.2d 481 (1997), however, this requirement does not apply to habeas petitions filed prior to April 24, 1996, the effective date of the AEDPA. See Green v. Johnson, 116 F.3d 1115, 1120 (5th Cir.1997). Tucker filed her habeas petition prior to April 24, 1996


Although Carter was influenced by our erroneous view of the applicability of the AEDPA to cases pending when the act became effective, it presumably remains precedent in this circuit to the extent that it "do[es] not conflict with Lindh's conclusion that the chapter 153 amendments do not apply retroactively." Green, 116 F.3d at 1120 n. 2


The state habeas court rejected this argument on the ground that Tucker failed to request a definition of "deliberately" at trial, although she did request that the court distinguish "deliberately" from "intentionally." The state did not plead this procedural default before the district court, so we consider it waived. See United States v. Marcello, 876 F.2d 1147, 1153 (5th Cir.1989)



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