Dead Woman Walking

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AUSTIN: Only one man can delay Karla Faye Tucker's deadly date with the needle: Texas Governor George W. Bush. But he's running out of time. With hours left before the born-again killer's 7pm EST lethal injection, the Supreme Court turned down her appeal against the Texan clemency system. Will Bush, a contender for the GOP presidential nomination, step in at the last minute? Unlikely: All he has to offer is a 30-day stay of execution, an option his administration has already recommended against. No political gain is seen in merely prolonging her suffering.

The Texas board of Pardons and Paroles rejected the born-again killer's request for clemency Monday morning. She'll be the first woman to be executed in the U.S. since 1984 (indeed, since Tucker herself was convicted for her 1983 crimes) and the first in the Lone Star state since Chipita Rodriguez back in 1863. Given more recent Texan history, the decision was no suprise: The board has unanimously rejected 16 similar requests in the past year alone.

Her now-inevitable execution will come as a disappointment to Tucker's many defenders including no less a luminary than the Pope. The religious right, too, has largely adopted her cause, while The Rutherford Institute, the conservative group that bankrolls Paula Jones' sex suit, has taken time off from attacking President Clinton with a perverse request for him to step in and save Tucker. Whether it's the fact that the 38-year-old former prostitute has "found God," or simple squeamishness at executing a woman who looks like someone you'd sit next to in church, America clearly cares more about Tucker than the other 144 inmates executed in Texas since 1982.