Rival mobs add voices to death penalty debate

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The Independent Online
In the early morning there were only a few reporters outside the Huntsville Penitentiary, but by mid afternoon a small crowd had gathered in an atmosphere akin to a county fair. By dusk, with the appointed hour of Tucker's execution approaching, it had become something closer to a lynch mob scene.

At Huntsville, where executions have become almost routine, they are not used to scenes like this. Several hundred onlookers, media people and scores of protesters with their conflicting messages milling together in an atmosphere bordering on the surreal.

Two preachers stood before knots of camera lenses sermonising on the injustice of capital punishment. Sitting on the ground were travellers from Italy holding down a giant banner reading "From Europe to Texas do not kill Karla Faye".

What can these visitors have made of the scores who have come here with an opposing message. Their banners were as blunt as they were gory.

"Forget injection, use a pick axe," blared one, in reference to the instrument of murder used by Tucker in 1993. Another, dismissing her claims to have become a born again Christian, said: "No Preachers on Death Row".

To add to the macabre atmosphere a large screen was erected and a video of Tucker signing to a song written by a local pastor's daughter was played. The song was called "When the time comes''. Such was the volume of the preachers and the pro-death penalty advocates shouting against them, the more measured words of the few human rights activists were almost drowned.

Nothing, however, was going to dissuade Bianca Jagger of continuing her day-long round of speaking out for mercy.

How scientific then, in the midst of all this, could be the survey that professors from the local state university were attempting to conduct.

Sitting slap in the middle of the throng they were handing out photocopied surveys and small pencils asking for views on the death penalty. What they will get promises to be raw indeed.

countdown to execution

12 midnight-2.45am (local time yesterday) Karla Tucker sleeping

3am refused breakfast tray

3.15am-5.45am Sleeping

6am Tucker awoken and given clean clothes to wear

6.06am Declined a shower.

6.14am Declined when asked if she wanted to watch the news

6.27am Sitting on bunk writing letter

7.30am Standing at cell door talking with warden Dessie Cherry.

7.40am-8am Talking with her attorney David Botsford by phone

8.06am Escorted to visitation room.

8.10am Given a cup of water and her personal Bible

8.11am Visited by her husband, Dana Brown, sister, Kari Weeks, and father Lawrence Tucker.

8.27am Accepted a soft drink and cheese crackers from her husband.

8.29am Warden Cherry offers Tucker medical assistance. But she declines. Continues visit.

9am Visit described as calm and quiet.

10.20am Tucker reading to her family from the Bible.

11.50am Dana Brown saying a prayer.

11.54am Tucker is crying for the first time.

11.55am Tucker and family members have their hands to the screen for closeness.

12 noon Visit ended. Tucker returned to cell.

12.12-12.15pm Property packed and inventoried.

12.19pm Praying with Gorre Unit chaplain.

12.55pm Removed from cell

1.03 pm Seated in van for transport to the Huntsville Unit.

1.12pm Arrived at Huntsville Unit.

1.14pm Placed in holding cell.

6pm Taken to execution chamber

6.37pm Injected with poison.

6.45pm Pronounced dead.