28 May 2004 – James Neil Tucker
‘To those I have harmed: my abject apologies and regrets. I am ashamed.’ Those were the final words of American James Neil Tucker and they sounded sincere enough, didn’t they? But it does make you wonder, when you hear what one of his previous lawyers said about him.
For Tucker was a serial offender. He was in and out of jail for petty theft, but the big ‘un came when he was just 17. Not that age mattered, for he wasn’t fussy – he raped an eight-year-old girl before switching to an 83-year-old woman. And Jay Jackson, the lawyer for his defence on that case simply stated, ‘He just had no sympathy for how his behaviour would affect you’.
And it was precisely that type of behaviour which had a terminal effect on two more women. Tucker was executed for murder – he killed two females in their own homes and at point-blank range in pursuit of money. His motive was said to be desperation – he had a pregnant wife to support and the monthly wage was just never enough.
On one count he pleaded self defence, in so far as the older of the two victims – 54-year-old Rosa Dolly Oakley apparently lunged for the gun. So, he shot her once, then a second time to ‘put her out of her misery’. He obviously learned his lesson because he trussed up his second victim, but that didn’t stop him planting bullets in her her too, again at close range.
Of course, there was an added complication – Tucker was actually on the run, having escaped from prison while doing time for the rapes. So the ensuing sentence was never going to be lenient. Sure enough, he was found guilty of robbery and murder and sentenced to death.
However, South Carolina had a predicament. Which method? The State was between options – they were phasing out Old Sparky in favour of the lethal injection, so they gave the unnerving choice to Tucker – electric or toxic shock?
That was one choice Tucker vowed never to make, because that would be like saying he condoned the sentence. Ultimately, the State had no choice but to make the decision for him and Old Sparky won through. He died aged 47 in a chair that was 80-odd years old and way past its sell-by date.