Texas Decides Not to Kill Henry Lee Lucas

By Jonathan Wallace jw@bway.net

The life Karla Fay Tucker saved was not her own.

Karla Fay was the born-again Christian murderer--that intelligent, appealing, calm woman on TV--who Texas killed by lethal injection a few months ago.

This week the state's clemency board took an unprecedented action and recommended the commutation of a death sentence. The board, which operates with no written criteria, has actually never spared anyone before.

Henry Lee Lucas is a confessed serial killer who was scheduled to be executed for the murder of an unidentified woman. There were two inconvenients. Strong evidence had emerged that Lucas was working in Florida the week of the murder. Also, Lucas had proved himself to be a confession junkie, admitting to hundreds of unsolved killings he evidently didn't commit.

Texas was right not to kill Lucas. Perhaps one shouldn't look too closely at the underpinnings of a good action. But the first act of clemency in Texas comes so late in the day....

A few years ago, Texas executed Jesse Dewayne Jacobs for a killing for which his sister was already serving a life sentence. The victim had been killed with a single shot--and both brother and sister were convicted of pulling the trigger. Unlike the new conscience Texas has discovered in the Lucas case, the state had no scruples about punishing two people for an act only one of them could have committed.

I can only surmise that the sparing of Henry Lee Lucas is Texas' belated gesture of remorse to Karla Fay. Whether this change of heart will be lasting enough to prevent the execution of another Jesse Dewayne Jacobs when the opportunity arises, remains to be seen.