Volume 3, Number 2
by Dave Lind
In 1983, Karla Faye Tucker and a companion, Daniel Garrett, broke into the home of Tucker's ex-boyfriend, Jerry Lynn Dean, hoping to steal motorcycle parts. By the end of the evening both Dean and his companion, Deborah Thornton, would be bludgeoned to death by a pickax wielded by Tucker.
On February 3rd of this year Karla Faye Tucker is scheduled to die in a Texas prison by lethal injection. One would hardly expect otherwise in a state which leads the country in executions by a wide margin. What is surprising though, is that in a state where 75 percent of voters approve of the death penalty, the public sentiment seems to run in favor of sparing Karla Faye Tucker.
Why such sympathy, you ask? Is Tucker's guilt in question? Were there glaring flaws in the trial? Is she a minor, or perhaps mentally incompetent? Is it because she is a woman?
No, no, no, no, and partly. The real reason Tucker is receiving so much sympathy is as simple as it is outrageous.
She found God.
To a person, every individual involved in the debate agrees that punishment for equal crimes should be meted out equally regardless of gender, and no one disputes Tucker's guilt or the capital nature of her crimes. What has persuaded many people to take her side is the apparent transformation of her character during her 14 years on death row.
According to those close to the case, Tucker's transformation is as genuine as it is dramatic and it has drawn surprising support from conservative circles. Many from the religious right are arguing that, since she has been saved and is now a good Christian, she should be spared and allowed to live out the rest of her days in prison. They contend that the Karla Faye Tucker that we would be executing is not the same as the Karla Faye Tucker that committed the killings.
To this argument I can only say two words: DNA tests.
To suggest that Tucker is deserving of mercy because she has "gotten her life together" is patently absurd. The people she brutally murdered in 1983 are just as dead whether she sings to Jesus or chants to Lucifer. Her guilt is not diminished by her "transformation", so neither should be her punishment. This much is scarcely even worthy of debate.
What is most troubling about all of this, however, and what seems to have been missed, is the implication by the religious right that by accepting Jesus and becoming "one of them", Karla Faye Tucker has somehow attained a heightened status and is thus worthy of heightened consideration.
Did you follow that? By going to bat for Karla Faye Tucker, the religious right is saying that all you have to do to receive leniency in our courts, in their view, is to renounce your wicked ways and accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Am I the only one who is frightened by this?
Ask yourself this: What if Karla Faye Tucker had found Allah instead of Jesus? Or Buddha? Or what if she had simply decided to be a good and caring person who didn't believe in a divine being? Would she then, in the eyes of the Christian community, be deserving of mercy?
And if being a Christian warrants leniency in capital crimes, what about lesser offenses? Do we start giving car thieves and drug dealers the choice of jail or baptism? Or traffic offenders the choice of traffic school or bible school? Am I being ridiculous?
Listen to Pat Robertson and Oliver North wax misty-eyed about the salvation of poor Karla Tucker before you answer that question.