Saturday, February 03, 2007

February 3

Ronald Ryan was hanged in Australia on this date in 1967. He was quite likely innocent of killing a prison guard during an escape from Pentridge Prison in Coburg, Victoria two years before. Nevertheless, based on scanty physical evidence, Ryan was convicted and received a sentence of death. His jury believed this sentence would actually be commuted to a long prison sentence, as the previous three dozen Australian death sentences had been. Protests throughout Victoria and nationwide were to no avail -- while a moment of silence was observed across Australia at 8 a.m. on February 3, Ryan was led to the gallows, where he achieved enduring notoriety as the last man to receive capital punishment in Australia.

Thirty-one years after capital punishment ended in a nation that had been founded as a prison colony, Texas Governor George W. Bush presided over the execution of Carla Fay Tucker. Tucker and a friend had killed two people in June 1983; both were sentenced to die, although her accomplice expired from liver disease before his execution could be carried out. Meanwhile, Karla Faye Tucker discovered religion behind bars and by all accounts had turned herself into a model prisoner. International outcry for the commutation of Tucker’s sentence failed to impress the future American president -- not even intercessions on Tucker’s behalf from Newt Gingrich and Pat Robertson deterred the governor.

Shortly before 7 p.m. on 3 February 1998, Karla Faye Tucker was strapped to a table and injected with a cocktail of lethal drugs.
Her last words included an apology to the families of her victims and a brief message for her husband, a minister whom she married several years before her death:
I hope God will give you peace with this. Baby, I love you. Ron, give Peggy a hug for me. Everybody has been so good to me. I love all of you very much. I am going to be face to face with Jesus now. Warden Baggett, thank all of you so much. You have been so good to me. I love all of you very much. I will see you all when you get there. I will wait for you.
Over a year and a half later, as George W. Bush was preparing for his presidential campaign, he mocked Carla Faye Tucker in an interview with Tucker Carlson, who at the time still wore bow ties. Bush imitated Tucker on the Larry King show, pleading for her life.

Tucker was the first woman executed in Texas since the Civil War.