Exactly What is the State of Texas So Worried About?
by Anne Good

As the Dallas County Sheriff's Department scurries about in its efforts to
keep sympathetic media away from their most famous inmate, Darlie Routier, I
began to wonder, "What is this all about?" The state has her exactly where
they want her -- on death row. They have the power and they are calling the
shots -- or are they? There may be more to the actions of the Sheriff's
Department than meets the eye. Perhaps the real drama has just begun.

Karla Tucker Sets the Stage

Karla Faye Tucker taught the world about personal transformation. What she
taught the judicial system and the Governor's office in the state of Texas
is that a high-profile image can translate into power, pressure ... and
wavering voters.

Ms. Tucker's appearances on the 700 Club, Larry King Live, Geraldo, etc.
gave the death penalty a human face for the very first time. She was young,
pretty, remorseful, and rehabilitated. Her example of personal growth was
monumental and struck a chord of forgiveness in the hearts of millions.
Letters poured in from all over the world asking, demanding, and pleading
for clemency or a stay of execution. Governor George W. Bush's office
received thousands of phone calls, faxes, and e-mails pleading for
intervention. Even Pope John Paul II counseled the Governor on the concept
of mercy.

A year before, who had ever heard of Karla Faye Tucker outside of Texas?
Now, a media darling, a poster girl for the death penalty, her face was
everywhere. Time, Newsweek, the evening news, and every major newspaper in
the nation carried her message: love and forgiveness can change all things.
She was a living, breathing example.
Governor George Bush and his administration must have been caught off-guard
by this media firestorm. His office desperately attempted to spin this
impending execution into "equality" under the law -- advancement for women!
With a straight face, Governor Bush told the country that Karla's life would
not be spared "simply because she was female." The Governor's office hoped,
maybe even prayed, this "spin" would fly and it did. Obviously, however,
politicians learned a lesson: Never allow the death penalty to have a human
face. It diminishes the "tough on crime" platform that has served so many so
well, and causes voters to question the moral issues involved in state
sanctioned murder. Mr. Bush must have realized that his well-guarded secret
was dangerously close to being exposed -- that justice in Texas has not
evolved much beyond its origins of "take em' out back and hang em' from a
tree." If the truth were known, justice in Texas would be the laughingstock
of the nation.

Is this what the state is so worried about?

The senseless execution of Karla Faye Tucker did weaken the belief in the
Texas time-honored tradition of executing criminals. It caused some people
to question the moral character of the man who personally leads the largest
execution industry in the world. George W. Bush may well be indifferent to
human life, a difference well worth noting.

Enter Darlie, center stage

Mr. Bush must have breathed a sigh of relief as Karla Faye Tucker quickly
faded from public memory. The media frenzy died down. The Governor was back
on track.

Just as he settled back in his easy-boy recliner, another name was beginning
to emerge in the papers -- Darlie Routier. Ms. Routier is far more dangerous
than Karla Faye Tucker. With Karla, Texas officials could always conjure up
the horrific image of the pickax along with her admission of guilt to
squelch public outcry, but the Routier case is different. This one could
actually break open the dam that has stopped the public flow of Texas' dirty
judicial waters. With Routier's steadfast proclamation of innocence, her
warm smile, and a forgiving nature, the thought of her appearing on Larry
King Live must instill fear in the system that put her on death row. Her
name can only mean one thing -- a repeat of the Tucker frenzy and more
wavering voters supporting death penalty advocates.
As Darlie Routier sits in her cell at the Lew Starrett Jail in downtown
Dallas pondering her fate, so too is the Dallas County Sheriff's Department
pondering its fate. The name Darlie Routier surely causes them to furrow
their brows with concern.

Ms. Routier, it would seem, has become a matter for The Dallas County
Sheriff's Department to be concerned about. They are concerned enough to
keep her as removed from the public eye as possible. They are concerned
enough to deny her the right to media access. They are concerned enough to
lie to authors, journalists, and investigators who have chosen to support
Ms. Routier, and they are concerned enough to break the very rules they
swore to uphold.
Convicted for the 1996 slaying of her children, Darlie Routier has been on
death row for almost three years. She consistently maintains her innocence,
claiming the murders were the work of an intruder. Local interest in the
case has remained strong, however, with new evidence to support her claim
along with speculation that the prosecution may not have played by the
rules, the interest is rapidly expanding to global proportions. Many people
are now beginning to question the verdict and death sentence, including
Charles Sanford, a juror who now regrets his vote for guilt. A lingering
question has always been, "Did Darlie Routier receive a fair trial?" As more
details begin to unravel about the investigation and the crime itself, many
are beginning to believe she did not.

As the appeals process continues, it appears more and more likely that Ms.
Routier, in the name of justice, will be granted a new trial. A new trial is
likely to produce a high-profile attorney for the defense and receive
national coverage on Court TV. The DA's office will have to produce
substantial evidence to appease the public and leave its trademark style of
character assassination and hyperbole to the tabloid press. If the first
trial is any indication, this will be a daunting, if not impossible task.
The removal of titillating and sensational details will leave the
prosecution with little else on which to build their case. An entire nation
will be watching and Darlie Routier stands an excellent chance of being
found "not guilty." With exoneration comes the undeniable revelation: the
system in Texas is seriously flawed. This system of justice is ready and
willing to put a twenty-nine year old wife and mother to death with mere
speculation and perjured testimony. Surely, mainstream America will find
this shocking. It seems to be a logical conclusion.

Is this what the state is so worried about?

The Final Act

With this conclusion in mind, The Dallas County Sheriff's Department appears
to be making it difficult for any potentially sympathetic press to speak
with Darlie. I tried it myself. The first time I went to see Darlie I spent
over two hours being directed from office to office and building to
building. I got the distinct impression that this was some sort of test. If
I didn't give up in frustration and I jumped through enough hoops, I would
be allowed in. In the end I passed the test and a receptionist told me I
could see Darlie (not a Warden, a Sergeant, or a Chief -- a receptionist!).
My subsequent article was what some would label "sympathetic."

After I mailed Ms. Routier a copy of the article (which took over two weeks
for her to receive) my fate with the Dallas County Sheriff's Department was
sealed. I didn't know at the time that all of Ms. Routier's mail is copied
and read.

With a second visit planned, I called Mr. Edwin Spencer, Media Liaison for
the Sheriff's Department. The wheels were set in motion for media clearance,
or so I thought. I immediately sent out the necessary paperwork in the exact
form Mr. Spencer requested. Two weeks later I left a voice mail asking to be
contacted if anything else was necessary. When I arrived at the jail my
visit was denied! I spent another two hours trying to see Darlie. After
jumping through another series of meaningless hoops, I was allowed in as a
"friend" for thirty minutes. This time I was told by a secretary I could
have done this without clearance. Later, Mr. Spencer explained that my mail
had been forwarded to Chief Knowles' office but, oddly enough, no one knew
anything about it. Mr. Spencer assured me that this was a simple mix-up and
new arrangements would be made. He looked me in the eye and in "good ol'
boy" style, he lied to me. I knew it and he knew it. We exchanged socially
correct departing clichés while simultaneously biting our tongues. The
battle lines had been drawn. Mr. Spencer telephoned me on Friday afternoon
and told me I could see Darlie on Monday from 1:00 to 3:00. He also told me
to "wrap it up because this is the last time you will see her." The "good
ol' boy" was not pretending anymore.

Over the weekend I learned of two stories similar to mine. One involved
Barbara Davis, author of Precious Angels, a damaging book supporting
Darlie's guilt. After reviewing new evidence, Ms. Davis courageously changed
her position and went public with a statement saying she now believes Darlie
is innocent. When Ms. Davis attempted to see Darlie, she was told there was
an outstanding warrant for her on a DWI (driving while intoxicated) and she
would not be allowed in. Never mind that Ms. Davis was never arrested for
drinking and driving. Never mind that Ms. Davis barely drinks at all. Ms.
Davis was now in the "undesirable" media camp, a camp that is interested in
the truth. The warrant was for a woman of the same name, also a blonde, but
10 years younger, with a totally different driver's license number and
different middle names. Ms. Davis was denied access to Darlie Routier five
times, having driven 45 minutes each way each time. She was inconvenienced,
harassed, humiliated, and pulled off the prison property by two big guards.

The second story involved Christopher Wayne Brown, author of Media Tried,
Justice Denied, another "undesirable." Mr. Brown has been banned from
visiting Darlie because officials say he once "entered the jail facilities
illegally." This is a transparent stall tactic. Anyone who has ever visited
a prison or a jail knows it is almost as hard to get in as it is to get out.
Mr. Brown has been told the ban will be lifted when he fills out the proper
paperwork -- the same paperwork I filled out. He has done this at least six
times and each time officials say they have not received it. To this day, he
has not been permitted to see Darlie.

On Monday, I arrived for my prearranged meeting early, full of doubt and
suspicion. In what has now become "standard operating procedure," the guards
did not have any paperwork. My visit was once again denied. I began my now
familiar trek through the Sheriff's Department and discovered that Chief
Knowles had the day off, his secretary was at lunch, Mr. Spencer was not in
his office, and no one else could help me. After a great deal of persistence
on my part, along with obediently jumping through several more hoops, Mr.
Spencer was located via his car phone. Once again, he blamed Chief Knowles'
staff and apologized for the mix-up (are you counting the number of mix-ups
that writers who support Darlie are experiencing?). Once again, he lied to
me and we both knew it. Several more phone calls later and I was allowed to
see Darlie for two hours.

If Mr. Spencer and Chief Knowles were asked "Why?" they are likely to come
up with several semi-plausible, semi-ridiculous explanations. The truth
would be buried beneath "official policy" rhetoric combined with a little
down-home-southern charm. The term "mix-up" would surely be used several
times. With just a little digging, the truth becomes apparent because it is
plain and it is simple. Darlie Routier must be kept under wraps. What
happened with Karla Faye Tucker must not happen again.

With a cherub-like face, big hazel eyes clouded with sadness, her hair tied
back in a simple ponytail, Ms. Routier looks as if she may have just
graduated from an all-girls preparatory school. When she speaks, she
radiates with sincerity, warmth and intelligence. She is totally at ease
with herself and at peace with the truth. This image must be threatening to
the system of justice that put her on death row, for it is in direct
conflict with the self-absorbed, materialistic image that was created to
secure both a conviction and public support for it. It doesn't take long to
realize that the prosecution blatantly lied about her.

Could this be why there are so many "mix-ups" with the media?

Let's imagine for just a moment...What if the public saw the real Darlie
Routier? What if they realized she was telling the truth? What if the public
was outraged by the hidden facts of her case? What if voters discovered they
had been lied to by an entire system of justice ... from the police
department to the DA's office and right up to the Governor's mansion?

The simple answer to each and every one of these questions is that Texas'
shameful little secret would be exposed and all the local officials will
lose support. The Governor just might have to face the country and explain
why he is willing to allow a young suburban wife and mother to be strapped
to a gurney and given a lethal injection for a crime that reeks of
reasonable doubt.

Karla Faye Tucker did indeed teach the world many things. If we are to truly
learn from her life and her death, we must not allow the state of Texas to
keep Darlie Routier shackled, confined, and gagged in the "bell tower." She
has a legal and constitutional right to speak with any media representative
she chooses. If she is denied her voice, then she is denied her right to
proclaim her innocence. If we sit by silently and watch, we are passively
saying, "The judicial system in Texas is fair and reasonable and it works."
Does anyone really believe that? Ultimately, the state of Texas and the man
who governs it may well be afraid of the answer.

At the conclusion of my observations and experiences, I ask myself once
again, "Exactly what IS the state of Texas so worried about?" I think the
metaphorical and literal answer is: Darlie Routier and the magnitude of her
"image," when the truth finally gets out.