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HOUSTON 4th Feb 98
With her legal remedies all but exhausted, condemned killer Karla Faye Tucker yesterday selected her last meal and said goodbye to family and friends as her execution loomed. Only the possibility of a last-minute stay by the United States Supreme Court, where an appeal is pending, or intervention by Texas Governor George Bush stood between Tucker and the grim distinction of becoming the first woman executed in Texas since 1863, during the Civil War. If all goes, as scheduled, Tucker will be led to the death chamber and strapped on to a gumey at 6:01 pm (1.01 pm today NZ time), given a few moments to make a statement, then put to death by a lethal mix of chemicals injected into her arm. Tucker, aged 38, was sentenced to die for the 1983 pickaxe murder of two Houston people. Yesterday, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles rejected a plea to commute her sentence to life in prison and a federal judge in Austin denied a request for a stay of execution. Tucker said she is a bom-again Christian who is not a threat to society. But experts held out little hope that the Supreme Court or Govemor Bush, who may be a presidential candidate in 2000, would stop the execation. Last year, 37 men were put to death in Texas, the most in state's bloody history. Tucker and boyfriend Daniel Garrett were convicted for killing Jerry Dean lime and Deborah Thornton with a 3m-long pickaxe during a burglary. Thornton was found with the tool embedded in her chest. Tucker told friends she had an orgasm each time she struck the victims with the pickaxe.
She confessed to the crime but said she and Garrett, who was sentenced to death but died in prison of liver disease, had been on a drug-taidng buve. For her last meal, she requested a banana, a peach and a salad. Yesterday Tucker was flown from death row at a prison in central Texas to an isolation cell at the Goree prison unit for women Texas Departmeent of Criminal Justice spokesman Larry Fitzgerald said she met family members and friends throughout the day and would do so again for a few hours today.
Sister Helen Prejean and Bianca Jagger lead a clemency rally in opposition to the death sentence.
Prejean's book and subsequent movie Dead Man Walking chronicled her work with a death-row inmate in Louisiana. She said Texas could be forced to re-examine the death penalty.
HUNTSVILLE - "I am going to be face-to-face with Jesus now," said axe-killer Karla Faye Tucker just before she was executed by lethal injection yesterday . 'She gasped twice and, then she kind of groaned as the air came out of her lungs," according to television reporter Vicente Arenas who witnessed the execution. "She moved her lips as if in prayer." Tucker, convicted for the 1983 murder of two people with a pick axe during a burglary, died eight minutes after a fatal mix of chemicals was injected into her arm as she lay strapped to a cross- shaped gurney in Huntsville state prison. "She gave a soft moan," said David Nunnelee, spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, who announced she had been executed. Her death came after a flurry of last-minute legal motions failed in state and federal courts. In her final statement, Tucker apologised to relatives of the two victims who witnessed Tucker's execution in an observation room next to the death chamber. "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 said. Richard Thornton, the husband of Tucker murder victim Deborah Thornton, muttered at the convicted killer as she was led into the chamber. "Here she comes, bpby doll. She's all yours," the wheelchair- bound Mr Thornton said. "The world's a better place." Later he said: "I have nothing but sympathy and sorrow for the family of Tucker. They are now going Karla Faye through what Tucker went through." Others witnessing the execution included Dana Brown, whom Tucker married by proxy a few years ago, and Ronald Carlson, Deborah Thomton's brother. Mr Carlson forgave Tucker and said he did not want her to die. Mr Brown said he was "losing a wife, losing someone who was precious to the human race." Arenas said Tucker kept her eyes open at all times in the execution chamber.
"She never closed her eyes. As a matter of fact as we left the chamber her eyes were still open and she was staring a blank stare into the ceiling." Tucker's case won international attention because of her gender and her religious conversion while on Death Row, with appeals for a reprieve coming from Pope John Paul and the European Parliament, among others. Television evangelists Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell - normally supporters of the death penalty - also called for her sentence to be conimuted. Death penalty advocates let up a cheer outside the prison when the execution was announced, while opponents chanted and prayed nearby. Only one other woman, 52- year-old Velma Barfield of North Carolina, has been put to death since a Supreme Court niling reinstated the death penalty in 1976. She was accused of poisoning four people.
The Cross and the Reaper. End the Death penalty in memory of Christ
to avoid the growth of eugenics by lethal injection.
KUNMING - On a bright, warm morning, the four condemned men lay down in a grassy field to die. Convicted of peddling heroin in southwestem China the prisoners were asked for their names and final words. Then, green-uniformed bailiffs inserted needles into the men Is veins and injected a colourless liquid. The quickest death took 31 seconds. The longest 58. Thus, four more dead joined China's world-leading list of executions - and a new chapter opened in the country's use of the death penalty. Like Karla Faye Tucker, the four died by lethal injection, an unusual method in a country which usually executes thousands of people by firing squad every year. Their death were part of an experiment that began in the provincial city of Kunming last March before expected adoption nationwide. "Iess like a judicial bloodbath,' said Robin Munro of Human Rights Watch/Asia. "[It] really evokes the sense that they are turning it into an assembly-line business." To avoid having to truck prisoners to the execution ground in the city suburbs, the Kunming court plans to construct a building "close to the crematorium" for carrying out lethal injections.
The facility will enable officials to execute criminals one at a time, rather than in batches, said Judge Lu Jianping. Chinese officials refuse to disclose what chemical is used for the injections, other than saying it is a narcotic, which indicates it lulls by stopping breathing functions. Wang Jun, the director of a hospital attached to the court who helped develop the injections, said he asks prisoners how they feel after the needles have been inserted. ' 'At the beginning, they don't feel anything, no feeling at all. When I ask again, they basically don't reply," he said. They 'suddenly lose consciousness, then they feel nothing, they are gone.' Kunming firing squads usually shoot prisoners in the heart from the back but Wang said they sometimes did not shoot straight, and may have to fire two or three bullets into a prisoner before they die. "It's very painful." AP