Karla Faye Tucker – Women Executed In The USA

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Karla Faye Tucker was the second woman who was executed in the United States and the first in Texas in over a hundred years. Karla Faye Tucker execution was controversial as many believed she was the definition of rehabilitation.

Karla Faye was born in Houston Texas to parents who were in a troubled marriage. Karla Faye would learn before her teens that her father was not the man she thought he was as her conception was part of an illicit affair. Soon after Karla Faye began to get in trouble and would drop out of school by the time she was fourteen and began working as a prostitute and a groupie to a number of popular bands at the time.

In 1981 the twenty one year old Karla Faye Tucker began dating Daniel Garrett who was thirty five and it was bad from the start. Karla Faye and Daniel Garrett came up with a plan to steal a motorcycle from an acquaintance named James Dean. The robbery quickly became violent and soon Garrett was beating on Dean with a ball peen hammer. According to testimony Tucker from the noises that James Dean was making as he was struggling to breath and would grab a three foot pix axe striking James Dean several times

Daniel Garrett would leave the residence to load up the stolen motorcycle into his truck and a woman , Deborah Ruth Thornton< who had been hiding in a closet came out and accosted Karla Faye . A fight broke out and Karla Fay Tucker would strike the woman several times with the pix axe finally dealing a blow into her heart. The victims bodies would be found the next day

A month later she and Daniel Garrett would be arrested and charged with the robbery and double murders. Karla Faye would testify against Daniel Garrett and the Thornton murder charge was dropped. For some reason Garrett would not be charged in the Thornton murder either. Both of them however would be convicted in the James Dean murder and each received a death sentence. Daniel Garrett would die in 1993 by liver failure while awaiting execution

Tucker transformation took place during the time she was awaiting for trial and would continue on wards. There was a mass of support from around the world calling for her death sentence to be commuted to life in prison however the Governor at the time refused to do so.

Karla Faye Tucker was executed by lethal injection on February 3, 1998

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On the morning of June 13, 1983, Gregory Traver was waiting for his friend and coworker, Jerry Lynn Dean, to pick him up for work. When Dean failed to arrive at the usual time, Traver walked the short distance to Dean’s apartment and knocked on the door. Finding it slightly ajar, Traver called out the name of his friend and, receiving no response, he entered the apartment. When he reached Dean’s spare bedroom, Traver saw Dean lying on the floor with blood on his head. The body of a young woman lay beside him, a pickax imbedded in her chest. Traver immediately called the police.

While inside Dean’s apartment, Traver noticed the motorcycle that Dean had been building was gone. Dean’s El Camino pickup was also missing. His stereo and television had been taken down and stacked in front of the cabinet on which they were usually kept.

When police arrived, they found the bodies of Jerry Lynn Dean and Deborah Thornton lying on the mattress and floor of the spare bedroom. There were several boxes of materials stacked in the room along with piles of dirty clothes and garden tools. Both bodies had been stabbed repeatedly with what appeared to be a pickax, which was still in the woman’s body. Property missing from the apartment included the dead man’s motorcycle, his El Camino, and his wallet. Thornton’s wallet was also gone. There was no evidence of a forced entry.

Police had few leads on the killings until about five weeks later, when Doug Garrett called his longtime friend, homicide detective *526 J.C. Mosier of the Houston Police Department. Mosier met with Doug and his girlfriend, Kari Burrell, the next day. They told Mosier that Doug’s brother, Danny Garrett, and Kari’s sister, appellant Karla Faye Tucker, had committed the murders. The couple’s friend, James Leibrant, had also been present during the killings. After talking to the officers investigating the murders of Dean and Thornton, Doug agreed to have himself wired with a microphone in order to obtain information directly from appellant and Danny. A couple of days later, Doug rode his motorcycle over to Danny and appellant’s house on McKean Street in Houston. There, he, Karla and Danny spoke for about one and a half hours about the murders. The conversation was recorded and the tape was admitted in evidence at Karla’s trial. That same day, after Doug left the house, and based on the information he had obtained, police arrested Karla Faye Tucker, Danny, Ronnie Burrell and James Leibrant.

The following story emerged at the guilt/innocence phase of appellant’s trial. On June 12, 1983, Karla Faye Tucker, her boyfriend Danny, Kari, Kari’s exhusband Ronnie, and James Leibrant, were at Tucker’s house on McKean Street. For most of the afternoon, they had been “drinking, smoking pot,” and “eating pills.” That evening, Kari and Ronnie left the house separately and did not return until the next day. Between 2:30 and 4:30 on the morning of June 13, 1983, Tucker, Danny and Leibrant decided to go over to Jerry Lynn Dean’s apartment to “intimidate” him, collect some money Dean allegedly owed appellant or Garrett and to steal his motorcycle. Danny took his shotgun along in case Dean resisted. There was also some testimony that Danny took some rubber gloves along, though it is not clear whether he actually wore them during the killings. Karla Faye had been talking about “offing” Dean and taking his motorcycle for quite some time.

Upon arriving at Dean’s apartment, appellant and Danny walked to the front door, while Leibrant remained outside. Karla Faye unlocked the door with a key she had stolen from her friend Shawn, who was Dean’s estranged wife. They proceeded to Dean’s spare bedroom, where Dean and Deborah Thornton were sleeping. According to Kari, appellant “put a pickax up to Jerry Dean’s head and told him not to move, motherfucker, or you’re dead.” Karla Faye told her sister that she or Danny “bunted one of them upside the head. I don’t know which one,” and when Dean began to beg for his life, she “picked” him numerous times. She also told Kari “every time she picked Jerry, that she looked up and she grinned and got a nut and hit him again.”

After she and Danny had disposed of Dean, Karla Faye Tucker discovered Deborah Thornton in the room, shaking in terror. “They threw they pushed the girl down, threw her under the sheets, and told her if she wants to live to see daylight, then to be quiet and stay underneath the sheets.” Tucker and Danny then began to “pick” Thornton, and when she “begged for them to go ahead and kill her because she couldn’t take anymore,” then “Danny kicked her upside the chin, and through her back, and buried the ax into her throat, the pickax.”

At some point during the killings, Danny went outside to retrieve Leibrant, who had been napping in Danny’s Ranchero pickup. When Leibrant entered the apartment, he heard a gurgling noise that “sounded like an aquarium pump that was broken.” He then observed Karla Faye standing with one foot on a body, which was covered with a sheet, jerking on the pickax, trying to get it loose. “[S]he finally got the ax out, got it up over her head, turned and looked at me and smiled, and hit the dude again.” Stunned by this sight, Leibrant fled the apartment. Dean died of severe trauma to the head and multiple stab wounds.

After disposing of Dean and Thornton, appellant and Danny placed Dean’s partially assembled motorcycle in the back of the dead man’s El Camino pickup along with some boxes of motorcycle parts they had found in the apartment. Karla drove the El Camino over to Doug’s apartment. There, she related the events of the morning to Doug, describing how she and Danny *527 had “offed Jerry Dean last night.” She said, “Dan hit him with the hammer and I picked him,” and “Doug, I come with every stroke” of the pickax. She handed him Dean’s wallet, which he threw in the trash after burning its contents. The El Camino was abandoned that same day in a parking lot near the Astrodome. The motorcycle and its parts were stored for awhile in Doug’s garage, then in Danny’s before Doug decided to throw them into the Brazos River.

Back at the house she shared with Danny and Kari, Karla Faye told her sister how she and Danny had killed Dean and Thornton and that she got a “thrill” while “picking” Dean. Karla Faye Tucker gave Thornton’s wallet to Kari as a birthday present, which she threw away in disgust. Later that day, a story about the killings was broadcast on the local news. Karla Faye Tucker and Danny laughed and bragged that they were the “pickax murderers.” Kari became frightened for her life and that very day, moved out of the house on McKean and in with Doug, whom she later married.

In her sixth point of error, Karla Faye claims the evidence is insufficient to show there was a probability that she would commit criminal acts of violence that would constitute a continuing threat to society. Art. 37.071(b)(2), V.A.C.C.P. She states that she has no prior convictions, that the expert testimony did not establish any sociopathic tendencies, and she posed no danger to anyone while incarcerated. Furthermore, there was mitigating evidence of intoxication not considered by the jury, and appellant was remorseful once she had gotten off drugs. For these reasons, she claims there is insufficient evidence to support the jury’s affirmative answer to special issue number two. We cannot agree.

While it is true that Karla Faye had no prior convictions, the testimony presented at the punishment phase showed she had a history of violent behavior. The psychological and psychiatric testimony, though somewhat conflicting, also showed her violent nature. Tucker herself took the stand and testified as to her turbulent past. At age fourteen, she beat up a classmate, blackening both her eyes. She got in a fight with a man and a woman when she was fifteen, and regularly fought with her exhusband. In all, she claims to have been in “at least three good fights that someone was hurt.”

Karla Faye Tucker also stated that she had disliked Dean, and told how she had once attacked him, breaking his glasses, and requiring him to go to the hospital to have the glass removed from his eye. After the killings of Dean and Thornton, Tucker bragged to the others about what she had done, and boasted she had received sexual gratification every time she struck Dean with the pickax. Karla Fayeshowed no remorse until after she was arrested.

Karla Faye Tucker’s sister, Kari, stated that she had heard appellant and Danny talking about killing Leibrant and Ronnie to keep them from talking to anyone about the murders. Tucker herself confirmed this conversation at the punishment phase. Karla Faye also testified about her plans to go on future escapades with Danny and his friends to raid drug labs, kill the people who worked there and to steal their property. All of this testimony indicates Karla Faye Tucker’s past violence and a willingness to persist in this type of behavior.

Furthermore, the nature of the killings, the planning involved in their commission, appellant’s claims of sexual gratification during the “picking” of Dean and her boastfulness afterwards, tend to “evince a `most dangerous aberration of character.'” Cass v. State, 676 S.W.2d 589593 (Tex.Cr. App.1984), citing King v. State, 631 S.W.2d 486 (Tex.Cr.App.1982), and Burns v. State, 556 S.W.2d 270 (Tex.Cr.App.1977). Accordingly, we cannot say the jury was not justified in believing she would commit criminal acts of violence which would constitute a continuing threat to society. The evidence is sufficient to support the jury’s affirmative answer to special issue two. Appellant’s seventh point of error is overruled.

Tucker Vs State

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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. When Was Karla Faye Tucker Executed

    Karla Faye Tucker was executed by lethal injection on February 3, 1998

  2. Why Was Karla Faye Tucker Executed

    Karla Faye Tucker was executed for a robbery murder

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