Tucker Executed in Texas

Karla Faye Tucker, the born-again Christian who stirred debate over redemption on death row, was executed Tuesday for a 1983 pickax slaying in Houston.

Tucker, the first woman executed in Texas since the Civil War, was pronounced dead at 6:45 p.m. CST, eight minutes after receiving a lethal injection.

In her final words, she expressed remorse and said, "I love you all," said David Nunnelee, state prison spokesman.

The execution came less than an hour after the U.S. Supreme Court turned down her final appeals and Gov. George W. Bush announced he would not grant a 30-day reprieve.

In a televised news conference that aired shortly before the execution, Bush said that the case had been thoroughly reviewed by appellate courts and she had been treated fairly. The governor was Tucker's last hope for mercy.

"May God bless Karla Faye Tucker, and God bless her victims and their families," Bush said.

A state court and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans also rejected eleventh-hour appeals.

Tucker, 38, faced lethal injection for using a 3-foot-long ax to hack to death a Houston man during a burglary at his apartment more than 14 years ago.

The attack also claimed the life of a woman, who was found with the ax buried in her chest. In a tape played at her trial, she told friends she experienced an orgasm each time she swung the ax into the bodies of her victims.

Worldwide publicity over Tucker's case, including pleas for mercy from Pope John Paul II and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, focused on her metamorphosis from a wild, drug-crazed, teen-age prostitute to a sweet and soft-spoken woman who would be content with a life prison sentence.

However, a CBS News poll conducted Sunday showed that 54 percent of those who had heard about the Tucker case believed the execution should take place. Thirty-seven percent said her sentence should be commuted to life in prison. More than a quarter of those polled said they hadn't heard anything about the case.

"My hope is in the Lord," Tucker said last month. "If God is going to allow this to happen, he has a purpose for this."

Texas, with 144 executions since 1982 and a record 37 last year, is the nation's most active death penalty state. The last time a woman was executed, however, was 1863 when Chipita Rodriguez was hanged in South Texas for killing a horse trader.

Nationally, since the Supreme Court in 1976 allowed the death penalty to resume, 431 men and one woman have been executed. In 1984, Velma Barfield, also a born-again Christian, was put to death in North Carolina for lacing her boyfriend's food with rat poison.

Earlier Tuesday, the Supreme Court rejected an appeal in which Tucker argued the Texas commutation process was unconstitutional because it set no rules for parole board members to follow when considering clemency.
None of the 16 condemned inmates who asked the pnel for commutation last year earned a single favorable vote from the board and 76 requests have been turned down since 1993.

She fared no better Monday, as the Board of Pardons and Paroles voted 16-0 to reject her request for a recommendation that the governor commute her sentence to life.

Tucker spent the hours leading up the execution visiting with her husband, father and sister. She had requested a final meal of fruit and salad but had eaten only some crackers and a soft drink since arriving at the prison in Huntsville on Monday.

In what was termed her final media interview, aired Tuesday morning on "The 700 Club," the program hosted by Christian Coalition founder and Tucker supporter Pat Robertson, she urged conservative Christians who usually support the death penalty to realize that God can redeem anybody.

"There should always be a place for mercy," she said.

Asked what her thoughts would be when strapped to the death chamber gurney, she replied: "I'm going to be thinking about certainly what it's like in heaven. I'm going to be thinking about my family, my friends and the pain. I'm going to be thankful for all of the love, probably wishing there was a way to give everybody a hug."

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