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.