Life Without Father

Inmates on Texas' Death Row leave behind immeasurable pain and countless victims--including their own families

Brian Davis had become briefly involved with the local skinheads at McDonald's urging. And only when she confessed, Tucker says he'd repeatedly told her, was he aware that she had actually murdered Michael Foster.

"At the time Brian confessed, he had no idea they [prosecutors] would ask for the death penalty," Tucker says. "He was willing to serve a long prison term for something he didn't do, just to protect his wife. But he never expected to be put to death for it."

But what of the second crime, the attempted robbery and stabbing of yet another victim? Davis again explained away his involvement. The real assailant, he told his family, had barged into their motel room, stabbed the visitor and safely fled into the night.

Mark Graham
Life with Daddy: Brian Edward Davis spent a few brief years with his son, though T.J. Davis has no recollections of those days. Center snapshot: T.J. visits his father, a convicted killer, on Texas' Death Row.
Life with Daddy: Brian Edward Davis spent a few brief years with his son, though T.J. Davis has no recollections of those days. Center snapshot: T.J. visits his father, a convicted killer, on Texas' Death Row.

Those family members who believe in him continue to take him at his word.

Today, it appears that Tracy Tucker's life is far removed from her youthful involvement with Brian Davis. The home she keeps is immaculate and decorated with collectibles and family pictures. Her husband, she says, is a wonderful provider and a good father. She admits that she dotes on her children--T.J. and his 9-year-old half-sister, Brooke--and brags unabashedly of their accomplishments. "Like any mother," she says, "I worry a lot about the choices they will make as they grow up." High on her list of goals is to do everything she can to see that they avoid the mistakes she made.

Her other goal is to one day see her first husband set free. It is an obsession that has made counseling and the use of anti-depressant medication necessary at times over the years. She stays in touch with Davis' attorneys, investigator Church and Davis' parents. And she looks forward to her ex-husband's rambling letters, filled with inaccurate spelling and poor punctuation, which always end with his promise to "love you for every."

"During his trial," she recalls, "he telephoned me from the courthouse every day." And when Brian Davis learned that an execution date had been set, it was Tracy with whom he first shared the news. At the time, she was married to her second husband and pregnant with her daughter.

In the years Davis has resided on Death Row, Tucker has visited him at least once a month, sometimes even more often. At times she's made the trip alone, sometimes in the company of her son and Davis' family. She has an album of smiling photographs, each with the white jumpsuit-clad Davis standing behind glass while his visitors pose in the cramped cubicle in front of him. In some you can see the swastikas tattooed on his chest and arm, a reminder of his early prison days when he was a member of a white supremacist prison gang.

Occasionally her husband will drive her to the prison, remaining in the parking lot during the two-hour visits. On Davis' first execution date, her parents took her to Huntsville. For a time she went weekly with the Arlington mother of another condemned inmate before he was executed. Recently, she made the trip with Dallas' Patricia Springer, the author of several true crime books, who occasionally visits one of Davis' fellow prisoners.

"Tracy's an unusual woman," Springer says. "I think over the years she has convinced herself that if she'd not divorced Brian, if she'd stayed with him, none of this would have happened. She feels a lot of guilt, convinced that she's at least partially responsible for the situation he's now in."

Guilt, justified or imagined, is a common thread that binds Brian Davis' supporters. "He was never physically abused or anything like that as a child," Jim Davis says, "but I regret that he had so little continuity in his life as he was growing up." The elder Davis points to his nomadic 20-year career in the Marines, with stops in Alaska, Virginia, North Carolina, Washington and Vietnam, and the fact that he and Brian's mother married and divorced each other four times.

Nor does he argue against the claims that his son meets the legal definition of mental retardation. "He was loving and caring as a child, but he didn't always use good judgment and had great difficulty in school," Davis recalls. Brian, he says, was never able to read well, and when he did attend school he fared poorly, even in special education classes. He was 16 when his I.Q. was tested at 74.

The Davises, Tucker and T.J., Springer says, are examples of the victimization she's often seen during the research she's done over the years. "The public has yet to understand that criminal acts create victims on both sides," she says. "The justice system and society rightfully show concern for those whose loved one was wronged, while condemning the families and friends of the perpetrator. They're routinely given little consideration by prison officials when they go to visit. Over and over I've seen them treated shamelessly. It happens all the time."

Jim Davis puts it more bluntly: "You're treated like you're a criminal."

Still, while the Davises and Tucker and her son agonize over the state-ordered fate that awaits Brian, the family of victim Michael Foster sees things far differently. "I can't wait until this guy is fried," Foster's older sister, Pat Kupritz, told the Houston Chronicle shortly before Davis' execution was postponed in May.

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