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CNN Today

Betty Lou Beets Awaits Word of Possible Reprieve From George W. Bush

Aired February 24, 2000 - 1:01 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Time is running out for Betty Lou Beets unless George W. Bush intervenes. The Texas Governor and Republican presidential candidate can, if he chooses, grant the 62- year-old convicted killer a month-long reprieve from a lethal injection. He says he's studying the facts of the case carefully.

While we await his decision, CNN's Charles Zewe reports on Beets' crime and punishment.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARY LOU BEETS, DEATH ROW INMATE: And he dragged me by my feet.

CHARLES ZEWE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Betty Lou Beets was sentenced to die for the 1983 murder of her fifth husband, Jimmy Don Beets, a Dallas firefighter killed, the prosecutors argued, for his life insurance and pension money. She was also accused but not tried for killing her fourth husband in 1981. The bodies of both men were found buried in the yard of Beets' mobile home, both shot in the head.

Beets says she doesn't know how her husband was killed.

BEETS: I wouldn't willingly do that, but I don't remember what happened then. I just don't remember what all happened then. It's just a blank to me.

ZEWE: The 62-year-old great grandmother asked the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles for clemency, contending she had been abused by all five of her husbands.

BEETS: It's humiliating to have no defense.

ZEWE: On Tuesday, the parole board denied her clemency request.

Texas Governor and Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush can grant Beets a one-time 30-day reprieve. During Governor Bush's tenure, there have been 120 executions in Texas, and he has never gone against the advice of his parole board, which he appoints.

FAYE LANE, BETTY LOU BEETS' DAUGHTER: I'm not saying that my mother should go free but to be allowed to live throughout her remaining years in prison. ZEWE: Only one other woman has been executed in Texas since the Civil War. In 1988, repentant pick-axe murderer Karla Faye Tucker received world-wide media attention when she was put to death.

This time, death penalty opponents say Bush's decision on whether to delay Beets' execution will help define what he calls "compassionate conservatism." Governor Bush says what's at stake his upholding the law of the land.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZEWE: Bush's office has given no indication when he might make an announcement on what, if anything, he will do. As you reported earlier, Bush has the option of granting a one-time 30-day reprieve. Meanwhile, the prison says that Betty Lou Beets is calm; she is pensive about what is about to happen to her. She has turned down a final meal here. Prison officials say, however, she says wants to make a final statement. That statement is expected to deal with domestic violence.

Charles Zewe, CNN, live, Huntsville, Texas.

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