This Week

Issue: "Steve Largent," Feb. 13, 1998

Death with dignity

Karla Faye Tucker smiled as the thick leather belts strapped her to the death gurney. She hummed quietly as she began to pass into deep sleep just before the heart-stopping chemicals sent her into eternity. A journalist who witnessed the execution said he "never saw Karla Faye Tucker take the smile off her face." Prior to the Huntsville, Texas, execution last week, Ms. Tucker expressed sorrow over the brutal murders she committed; she expressed her love for the victims' surviving family members; and she expressed confidence she would in mere moments be "face-to-face with Jesus." On the other side of the glass, there was the bitterness of Richard Thornton, the husband of one of Ms. Tucker's victims, who refused to grant forgiveness. "My religion says to forgive. Turn a cheek. I still cannot do it. I don't believe her conversion. I don't believe her Christianity." In the case of Karla Faye Tucker, journalists pitted those who believed her conversion against those who doubted it-the believers favoring clemency, the doubters favoring execution. WORLD contributor William H. Smith argues that Ms. Tucker's "transformed life ... cried out for the exercise of executive clemency." He points out that God in his wisdom gave civil magistrates the discretion to "temper justice with mercy" and noted God's example of mercifully sparing the life of King David, "who, under the Old Testament code, was guilty of multiple capital crimes." Rev. Smith also makes the excellent point that "Karla was not rehabilitated, she was regenerated." Granted, Karla Faye Tucker's conversion seemed entirely genuine, but that is really beside the point in considering clemency. Strip away all the emotional baggage of this case: the substantial appeal of Ms. Tucker's grace under fire and the substantial disgust of her pick-ax murders. (Fox News Channel broadcast the crime-scene photos, which showed one of the hacked-up bodies looking like a human pin cushion.) What you're left with, then, is the question of the magistrates' responsibility to use wisdom in the carrying out of their God-given power. Wisdom. Would it have been wise to establish a precedent that has government officials judging the sincerity of a religious conversion? If so, would religions other than Christianity qualify one for clemency? Islam? Hinduism? Buddhism? At a time when race has skewed the administration of justice, would it have been wise to send the message to the black community that if you're not winsome, telegenic, and white, you stand little chance of winning clemency? Wasn't the wiser course the one pursued by Texas Gov. George W. Bush last week? That the people of that state are serious about executing murderers? Criminals there have now seen and heard that politicians in that state have the will to put to death the single most compelling death row inmate ever to grace the television screens of the nation. They must now have no doubt that if caught and convicted, they will die. Last week's hard-case execution was a victory for the deterrent effect of capital punishment. It was also a victory for the grace of Christ. For Karla Faye Tucker exposed the error many journalists made when they equated opposition to clemency with doubt for the sincerity of her conversion. She said in an interview aired on Pat Robertson's 700 Club, "It's about God's redemption and the blood of Jesus and the power of God to change a life. It's about what Jesus did on the cross.... In my life or in my death for God to be glorified." As Rev. Smith puts it, "The murderer, whose hands wielded a pick-ax, is now safe and blessed in the nail-pierced hands of the Savior." Indeed, Karla's was a death with dignity.

Gospel biography

Thursday's National Prayer Breakfast may have been a celebration of America's vague civil religion, but syndicated columnist Cal Thomas wanted his colleagues to get the real scoop on Christianity the night before. Some 200 guests-including Beltway pundits Mark Shields and Arianna Huffington and a host of Washington reporters-attended his annual media dinner. They heard testimonies of lives changed by prayer: boxer Evander Holyfield, Touched by an Angel producer John Anderson, and others. "I had a lot of opinions about God, though I'd never met him," Mr. Thomas confessed. To help with introductions, he gave each guest "a biography of Jesus"-the four Gospels-at the end of the evening.

The world in brief

We see you’ve been enjoying the content on our exclusive member website. Ready to get unlimited access to all of WORLD’s member content?
Get your risk-free, 30-Day FREE Trial Membership right now.
(Don’t worry. It only takes a sec—and you don’t have to give us payment information right now.)

Get your risk-free, 30-Day FREE Trial Membership right now.

Iraq Attack? Secretary of State Madeleine Albright ended a Middle East tour with with tacit support for U.S. air strikes against Iraq. But the United States continued to lack key backing from two UN Security Council members, China and France. After President Clinton rejected Saddam Hussein's proposal to allow limited UN weapons inspections inside Iraq, Russian President Boris Yeltsin hinted at a wider conflict if the United States chose to attack Iraq militarily. "The most important thing is that we have stuck firmly to our position of opposing the military option. It is not possible, it would mean world war," he said. Italian premier calls U.S. flyers reckless Twenty people were killed when a U.S. Marine airplane severed the cable of a skiers' gondola during a low-flying mission over an Alpine ski resort in northern Italy. The aircraft returned to base and both pilots were unharmed. Officials at the U.S. air base in Aviano, Italy, where the Marine EA-6B Prowler was based, suspended all low-level training missions by U.S. military aircraft in Italy after the accident. Italian Premier Romano Prodi, after visiting the accident site, said the American pilots should be prosecuted.


You must be a WORLD member to post comments.

    Keep Reading


    Troubling ties

    Under the Clinton State Department, influence from big money…