Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Karla Faye Tucker: Texas' Controversial Murderess

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 quickacting 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.

One of the last photos of Karla Faye Tucker (Ron Kuntz)
One of the last photos of Karla
Faye Tucker (Ron Kuntz)

 

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