Stop Executing Juveniles!

Napoleon Beazley Wins A Last-Minute Stay

Napoleon Beazley

By: Jeannine Scott

Napoleon Beazley was set to be executed in Texas ten days after his 25th birthday on August 15 when the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ordered a stay of the execution to hear a number of the issues surrounding the case.

He was convicted for the murder of John Luttig in Tyler, Texas, in 1995. The jury that heard the case about Beazley, who is black, and the murder of Luttig, who was white, was an all-white jury in a county where African Americans comprise 20 percent of the population. One of the jurors was a notorious racist, it was learned in 1997 — the juror’s wife has filed an affidavit confirming this. Another juror on the case appears to have been a long-time employee of one of Luttig’s business partners — information that also was not revealed during the pretrial screening of jurors. The victim was the father of a federal appeals judge, and the judge worked closely with prosecutors in pursuing the case against Beazley.

As if these weren’t reasons enough to revisit the trial and sentence of Beazley, there is the issue of the executions of juveniles — Beazley was 17 at the time of the murder.

The United States has signed an international law — a law respected by almost every nation in the world — forbidding the execution of juveniles, defined as those under the age of 18 at the time a crime was committed. Of those nations executing children, the United States is far in the lead, with at least 13 child offenders put to death in the last decade, while the combined total of the other nations of the world is ten. Currently, there are approximately 70 child offenders on death row in 16 states throughout the United States.

Texas, the home of President George W. Bush, has had about 35 percent of the total number of American children on death row since the death penalty was reinstated in 1977. Texas also has the dishonor of executing one third of the children killed by the state in the U.S.

After Steve Roach, another juvenile offender, was executed in January 2000, his lawyer released a statement that concluded: “And he was unable to grasp, even to his last breath, why we kill people to teach other people that killing people is wrong. The principal lesson he wanted his own death to communicate is that this makes no sense. Killing kids makes no sense, and it must be stopped.”

The Campaign to End the Death Penalty agree wholeheartedly. That’s why the Austin chapter staged two protests outside the governor’s mansion, demanding a stop to the execution of another “child” — Napoleon Beazley. There is another protest planned for mid-September. Polls in Texas indicate that most people oppose the execution of juveniles. We in the Austin chapter want to know why Governor Rick Perry doesn’t agree with us.

The stay of execution in Beazley’s case will open up the possibility that the Supreme Court will take up the question of the execution of juvenile offenders — just as it has taken up the execution of the mentally retarded. We should celebrate the halting of Napoleon Beazley’s execution — and continue to keep up the pressure against the execution of juvenile offenders and all victims of the unjust death penalty.

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