My Thoughts on Karla Faye Tucker's Execution
The views expressed in this webpage are entirely my own and do not reflect those of my employer.
Last update: July 20, 2011


I became aware of Karla Tucker's impending execution hearing that she would be the first woman to be executed in Texas since the Civil War.  The Dallas Morning News (DMN) published several articles about her.  The DMN also published a couple of editorials suggesting Karla get clemency and numerous letters to the editor (pro and con) were published.  In a nutshell, I got to know a lot about Karla and the issues surrounding her crime and her execution.

Columnist Steve Blow (DMN) said that Karla's struggle was stirring up so much emotion because people got to know her and it's difficult to kill someone you know.  I strongly agree with this assertion.  Many people have claimed Karla's worldwide notoriety was due to her being a woman and/or a born-again Christian.  I think these were red-flag issues but, as I got to know the Karla, it became obvious that she was a nice person.  Certainly her crime was most henious and brutal and cried for justice. But that had been 14 years ago.  Today, she was not a threat to society.  So why did we execute her? (Mind you, I didn't think she must be released back to society; that would have been a different issue.)

This question (why execute her?) and it's implications (that we are killing someone who might well have a positive, not negative, influence on our society) weighed heavily on me.  As Karla's options for life disappeared, I felt growing shame.  I will never shake the knowledge that we/Texas killed a good person.  Karla's death has exposed every possible flaw in the Texas capital punishment system and, probably, in capital punishment everywhere.

Here are some of the main players in Karla's execution (at the time of her execution) and my complaints about them.

The Parole and Clemency Board

George W. Bush, Governor of Texas  The People of Texas
During the course of writing into a public forum (bulletin board), set up by the Dallas Morning News following Karla's execution, I have realized that many people in Texas were very glad that Karla was executed.  This is a very disturbing revelation to me.  In so many ways, Texans are pleasant and friendly people.  Karla's death uncovered a blood-thirsty undercurrent that I have often heard stated as Texans are mean-spiritedMs. Tucker's attorney phrased it as "There is no mercy in Texas."  It leads me to question how much Texans truly value human life.

I can characterize the reasoning of people who supported Karla's execution in 3 catagories:

Vengence for her crimes

    Vengence is not a rational reason for executing anyone.  It's merely society-sanctioned murder.

Her crimes were so brutal that she must die

    Yes, Karla's crimes were brutal but I believe that "the Karla" who committed those crimes no longer existed and was not present at the execution.  I truly believe that Karla Tucker was rehabilitated.  In fact, I think anyone would see this if they truly took the time to read about Karla's life on death row.
    Also, Karla was only asking that her sentence be commuted to life in prison, not that she be released.  Karla wanted to live but she wasn't asking for her freedom.

She should not be specially treated because she's a woman and born-again Christian
 
    In general, I agree with this.  Still, I think a person's history of behavior while on death row is very relevant to whether they should receive clemency.  I mean, we're not psychic.  We can't read an inmate's mind and, yet, we need some way to judge the inmate's state of mind.  All information is helpful and it would be stupid to ignore an inmate's history while on death row.
    The Parole and Clemency Board specifically ignored this history.  In Karla's case, her record showed more than a decade of kind and caring service to her fellow inmates on death row (her only contact with the prison population), remorse for her crimes, compassion for the families of her victims, and a commitment to being a good person.  To me, it is abundantly clear that Karla Tucker had turned her life around and was no longer a threat to society.
    If you don't believe me then read about Karla yourself.  I'm confident you will see that I'm correct.
 
 

Basic immoralities of the death penalty
Why do we execute people rather than put them in jail for life without parole?  I don't have all the answers.  I have always been against capital punishment.  Still, I have an open mind.  Here are some of the answers I've read about and my thoughts about them.

It is a deterrent to crime
    Many murderers, such as Karla 14 years ago, are truly despicable characters: amoral or permanently psychotic.   I doubt the threat of a death sentence will have any effect on their actions.  Still, there are a lot of studies on this and I'm not an expert.
    Also, I can't help feeling that it is unfair to kill a person as a warning to others.  Life is so precious and death is so permanent.

The families of the victims need the execution to feel that justice has been served
    In the particular case of Karla Tucker, this was not the case.  Ron Carlson (the brother of the woman Karla killed) actually needed to forgive Karla of her crime before he could get on with his life (and he did so in person).  On the other hand, the husband of this same woman remained quite bitter towards Karla to the very end... even making cruel comments towards Karla in the death chamber during her execution.  Just my opinion, but I doubt anything will ever relieve his anger.
    Although I can't, in general, discount the above claim it sounds like a fascinating subject for study... and it probably has been studied.

The criminal, once executed, will never kill again
    Well, this is certainly very true.  I could ask "If the inmate were not executed and eventually freed, would they kill again?"
    There have been studies that show death row killers, when freed on technicalities, do not kill again.  I suppose looking death in the face is a life-altering experience for these people... I don't know.
    Anyway, the same could be said for a killer sentenced to "life in prison without chance of parole".  At the time of Karla's execution, this sentence did not exist Texas; Texas has it now.

My take on the death penalty and how it applies to Karla Tucker
     Capital punishment should be reserved for those people who would continue to be a threat to society even from within prison.  Anything else is simply vengeance.
Examples of the moral use of the death penalty:
1) A prisoner arranges for the murder of a civilian.
2) A prisoner murders another prisoner.

Karla Tucker, of all inmates, was NOT a threat to society.  If her execution had been commuted to a life-term, I have no doubt that she would have continued to serve her fellow inmates.