Office of the Attorney General News Release Archive

Tuesday, September 11, 2001


Jeffery Tucker Scheduled to be Executed

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn offers the following information on Jeffery Tucker, who is scheduled to be executed after 6 p.m. on Tuesday, September 11, 2001


On the afternoon of July 11, 1988, a passing motorist found the body of Wilton Benthel Humphreys lying on a rural road in Parker County about 20 miles outside of Granbury, Texas. Humphreys had been shot twice in the chest and once in the face, had blood coming from his mouth and back of his head, had broken legs, and had tire marks on his pants.

Humphreys' driver's license found in his pants pocket led investigators to his home where his wife explained that her husband had left earlier that day with a man, later identified as Tucker, to finalize the title transfer of a truck and travel trailer they had advertised for sale in the Fort Worth Star Telegram.

Tucker was arrested three days later in New Mexico driving the stolen truck in the course of a high-speed chase resulting from an armed robbery of a gas station. After Tucker's arrest, he confessed in detail to Humphreys' murder and to other crimes committed during the four-day crime spree culminating in his arrest, including an armed robbery of an Arlington motel clerk the day after Humphreys' murder.

The day before Humphreys' murder, Tucker, who had recently been released from prison, searched the classified advertisements for a vehicle suitable for travel and camping where Tucker could inexpensively and unnoticeably travel cross-country in a nationwide robbery spree. Tucker spotted the Humphreys' ad in the newspaper, and, using an assumed name, called to arrange a test drive. Then, Tucker stole two checks from his brother's checkbook and wrote one out for $423, which he then cashed at his brother's bank. Next, in violation of his parole, Tucker used the money to buy a gun at a pawn shop, which he used in the murder of Humphreys and in two armed-robberies following the murder.

Tucker's confession revealed the following details: The Humphreys', who were selling the truck and trailer because they had purchased a large RV to travel in together, met with Tucker at their home. Tucker went on a test drive with Humphreys and later visited with Mrs. Humphreys in her living room while Humphreys left to get some attachments for the trailer. Then, after making a pretextual phone call, Tucker and Humphreys left together in the truck to go to the bank in Granbury to transfer the paperwork and finalize the sale. Once the two men were in the truck alone, Tucker pulled out the gun from a paper sack he had been carrying and forced Humphreys to drive out of town. About 20 miles outside of town, Tucker forced Humphreys to pull onto a road off the main highway. Tucker instructed Humphreys to stop and get out of the truck, allegedly so Tucker could tie him up on a fence post. Tucker alleges that while both he and Humphreys were out of the truck, Humphreys tried to get back into the truck and lock Tucker out. Tucker's confession states that a struggle then ensued that ended up with Tucker shooting Humphreys two times. The autopsy revealed that Humphreys had been shot twice in the chest and once in the face. After Tucker shot Humphreys, Tucker shoved him out of the truck and drove off, at which time the rear wheels of the truck and the wheels on the left hand side of the trailer ran over Humphreys' legs.

Procedural History

Tucker was indicted on October 13, 1988, for the capital offense of murdering Wilton Benthel Humphreys in the course of committing and attempting to commit robbery. On Tucker's plea of not guilty, he was tried and convicted of capital murder. A punishment hearing followed, and based on the jury's answers to the special issues, the trial court assessed a punishment of death in accordance with state law.

Tucker's appeal was automatic to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which affirmed the conviction and sentence in an unpublished opinion dated June 9, 1993. Tucker then filed a petition for writ of certiorari, which the Supreme Court denied on March 28, 1994.

Because Texas law at the time did not provide indigent defense for state habeas appeals, Tucker filed an initial application in federal district court without going through the state habeas appeal process. The federal district court limited Tucker's federal claims to those that he had raised on his state direct appeal. He appealed this ruling to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Fifth Circuit dismissed Tucker's federal petition without prejudice to permit Tucker to go back to state court and file a state habeas appeal in light of a then newly-enacted state law that provided for the appointment of counsel to indigent applicants.

Through court-appointed state habeas counsel, Tucker filed his original application for writ of habeas corpus in the state trial court on April 11, 1997, followed by a supplemental application. The state trial court issued findings of fact and conclusions of law recommending that relief be denied. Based on the trial court's recommendation, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied relief in an October 21, 1998, unpublished order.

Tucker initiated his federal habeas proceedings on November 2, 1998, by filing a preliminary petition for writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Fort Worth Division. On September 9, 1999, the court denied Tucker's request for federal habeas relief. The court next denied Tucker's motion to alter or amend the judgment, but granted Tucker's application for a certificate of appealability.

Appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit followed. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment denying Tucker habeas relief. Tucker's petition for rehearing was denied on March 28, 2001.

Finally, on June 25, 2001, Tucker filed a petition for certiorari review in the Supreme Court, which denied both the writ of certiori and the stay. By order dated July 2, 2001, the 43rd Judicial District Court of Parker County, Texas, scheduled Tucker's execution for September 11, 2001. Tucker's application for stay of execution in the Supreme Court is also pending.

Criminal History

Tucker's documented criminal history reflects a decade-long pattern of offenses, increasing in severity and indicating an unwillingness to conform to society's laws. Prior to the capital murder of Humphreys and the two armed robberies that followed,Tucker had been convicted of nine felony offenses and had been to the penitentiary three times.

In 1979, Tucker was convicted of two counts of passing a forged check that, after parole violations, resulted in two concurrent three-year terms of incarceration. In 1980, Tucker was convicted of third-degree felony theft and sentenced to three years in prison. Also in 1980, Tucker was found guilty of possession of marijuana and was sentenced to four years incarceration in the Texas Department of Corrections. Tucker's prison records reflect that he was found guilty of several disciplinary offenses, including soliciting the assistance of an inmate to violate prison rules and failing to obey orders.

In 1984, Tucker was convicted of two counts of forgery by the making of a check and was sentenced to concurrent six year terms of imprisonment. On November 30, 1984, Tucker was convicted of third degree felony theft and was sentenced to six years incarceration. Tucker's prison records revealed that during this term of incarceration he was found guilty of numerous disciplinary offenses, including damaging property, possession of contraband, sexual misconduct, destruction of property, possession of a weapon, refusing to obey orders, fighting without a weapon, failure to work, creating a disturbance, and stabbing an inmate.

The stabbing incident involved Tucker's attack on his cellmate by stabbing him in the head with a homemade knife made of a metal rod and a toothbrush. Testimony at Tucker's capital murder trial revealed that the cellmate was found shoved under the bunk in the cell with a piece of a toothbrush handle attached to a metal rod protruding from his temple, and another rod that was stuck in his throat. A search of the cell revealed another weapon fashioned from a sharpened piece of a red drinking glass found underneath Tucker's mattress. Tucker pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and received a five-year sentence.

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