Karla Faye Tucker wholeheartedly embraced the Christian faith while waiting on death row, convicted of two brutal pickax murders.
Victor Rodriguez, chairman of the Texas parole board, said he did not believe that Tucker’s conversion was genuine. His was the minority opinion, however – most who came into contact with Tucker said the former drug-addicted prostitute clearly exemplified the transforming power of the gospel. Tucker’s new born-again life did not sway the State of Texas, which executed her Feb. 4 for crimes committed in her old life.
Tucker was buried two days later in a private service at Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery in southeast Houston. But while her earthly life is over, the controversy over the death penalty she motivated lives on.
According to New York Times religion writer Gustav Niebuhr, Tucker’s case is leading many evangelicals to reconsider their support for the death penalty.
“It’s no secret that evangelicals have been stalwarts behind the death penalty,” the Rev. Richard Cizik, policy analyst at the National Association of Evangelicals, told Niebuhr. However, Cizik said Tucker’s execution could trigger “a certain moral revulsion” among many evangelicals “because she is a woman of such obvious spiritual change.”
Tucker’s remarkable transformation and her eagerness to share the difference that Christ could make in any person’s life hit home with many evangelicals. “Evangelical Christians have connected personally with somebody on death row,” Jim Wallis, editor-in-chief of Sojourners, told Niebuhr, adding that death-penalty opponents “haven’t had an opening like this in a very long time.”
Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson helped make Tucker a national figure, airing interviews through his Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) with her beginning in 1993. Robertson, who supports the death penalty, campaigned unsuccessfully to have Tucker’s sentence commuted to life in prison
At a press conference, Robertson said, “I am one who has supported the death penalty for hardened criminals. But I do think that any justice system that is worthy of the name must have room for mercy. And there are times for mercy. In the case of Karla Faye Tucker, she is not the same person who committed those heinous ax murders some 14-and-a-half years ago. She is totally transformed, and I think to execute her is more an act of vengeance than it is appropriate justice.”
CBN’s web-site ran a poll, asking if the Tucker case had changed people’s views about the death penalty; of the more than 1,300 people who had responded, 34 percent said the case had changed their view, but 39 percent said it had not.
Pat Nolan, senior vice president of Prison Fellowship Ministries, told Niebuhr that Tucker’s case would result in “a lot of conversations around the dinner table and hopefully in the pews. I know many churches have Bible studies, so when they come to verses about crime and God’s judgment and man’s judgment, I hope this will continue to be discussed and prayed about.”
Dana Brown, a prison minister who married Tucker three years ago, said, “We’ve all made mistakes in our lives. Who are we to say when a person is past redemption? And that’s what we’re saying when we kill people, human beings.”
In her final interview with Kathy Chiero of CBN’s “700 Club,” Tucker said, “My prayer is that it would make, most especially the body of Christ, realize that God can redeem any life He wants to. He said, ‘… that none should perish, but that all would come to a saving knowledge of Him.’ My prayer is that they’d realize that it is what we preach – the fact that no matter what you’ve done, Christ can take the bad thing that the devil meant for evil, and turn it around and use it for good. In the same way that he did with Moses, or with Saul of Tarsus, or anybody, He can do that in any life. That’s my prayer – that they would began to see people who have sinned, but can be redeemed.”
– E.P. News