There are a small number of people who believe the reformation of Karla Faye Tucker was a farce. So for arguments sake, let's say Karla really was fooling everyone throughout her final moments--a show she put on until her last breath. All she really did was learn how to wear the mask that society requires of us. It doesn't matter to the world if you fantasize about killing people daily, as long as those fantasies never come to fruition. Her performance would have been one that we all take part in daily, but she truly relished hers and made it count.
One of the most remarkable things about Karla Faye Tucker isn't just the amount of people she had petitioning for her life to be spared, but who those people were.
Former Texas prosecutors, staunch advocates of the death penalty, prominent Televangelists, even the brother of one of her victims. The statements everyone made about her after her arrest were very damning. Even her defense attorney was repulsed by her and didn't want to defend her. It was after Karla's conversion to Christianity and her public apologies that people began to not just see another side of her, but consider how she became the monster she had previously been in the first place.
She was introduced to drugs at 10 years old, and with her mother, became a groupie in her early teens. They both worked as prostitutes and used various drugs heavily. She really was never destined to live a "normal" lifestyle.
Admittedly, she seemed to make it difficult for people to view her in a sympathetic light. She wanted to be seen as tough, and by all accounts, she was. One prosecutor said he had no problem admitting that he believed she could easily beat the shit out of him if she wanted to. She said outlandish things, like her mention of experiencing an orgasm with each blow of the ax. She later confessed that this was a lie she told to make herself appear more tough, comfortable with murder, and intriguing to the rough crowd she hung around with.
The unfortunate thing is that it took her religious conversion for people to acknowledge the terrible upbringing that Karla endured. And, admittedly, she made it much easier to see her as a person — she was no longer threatening, but likable and forthcoming. The problem is that, as is often the case, it is so much easier to offer help to someone who no longer needs it. Prison turned out to be the best thing for Karla, but it's important to remember her, because she is an example of prison actually reforming a person. As she was quick to point out while she was still alive, there were and still are many other men and women on death row who had similar revelations and became new people while in prison. Her gender, appearance, and charisma helped bring attention to her transformation, as did the fact that she reached it via Christianity. Sadly, reformation is not typically the goal of US prisons, and, like so many people before her, she was still put to death.
Karla's popularity didn't really help her much in the eyes of the law, but it did raise some interesting questions about capitol punishment and the role of our prison systems, however briefly. And it makes one wonder how our legal system should react to people like Karla, who have such a rough start in life that prison is what saves them.
A final thought:
Fred Allen oversaw Karla's execution, along with 120+ others during his days as captain of the "Death House Team." In Werner Herzog's 2011 documentary "Into the Abyss", Allen told Herzog that within days of Karla's execution, he suffered a nervous breakdown & resigned, giving up his pension. He also changed his position on executions. "I was pro capital punishment. After Karla Faye and after all this, until this day, eleven years later, no sir. Nobody has the right to take another life. I don't care if it's the law. And it's so easy to change the law."
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