- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 15, 2001

HUNTSVILLE, Texas Officials here are expecting an unusually high number of protesters to line the streets in front of the state prison for the scheduled execution of a 25-year-old murderer this morning. Napoleon Beazley, the death-row inmate, has rallied considerable support from various groups and international interests.
Beazley was 17 years old when he shot and killed a Tyler man in a carjacking in April 1994. Two others with him at the time are serving life sentences.
If he dies, Beazley will be the 18th juvenile offender to be executed in the United States since reinstatement of the death penalty in the mid-1970s.
Beazley's case has become the focus of a wide-ranging debate about whether capital punishment should be used in cases where the perpetrator is a minor. Both sides have strong voices.
In an unusual sidelight on Monday, three U.S. Supreme Court justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and David H. Souter disqualified themselves from ruling on a stay of execution for Beazley because they claimed personal ties with J. Michael Luttig, a federal appeals judge from Virginia whose father was Beazley's victim. The other justices split 3-3. Without a majority decision, a stay could not be granted.
As the hours ticked away, with only Texas Gov. Rick Perry or an unexpected intervention by the U.S. Supreme Court to change the outcome, the controversy raged.
Beazley has gained support from several human rights groups, the American Bar Association, the Vatican and numerous others who say executing teen-age criminals is barbaric. The 43-nation Council of Europe has issued a statement saying the United States' practice of executing juvenile offenders is "unjustifiable" and "inexcusable."
On the other side, law enforcement and prosecutors claim the horror of the crime demands that Beazley die.
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles on Monday rejected Beazley's request for commutation to life in prison by a 10-6 vote and decided 13-3 against a 60-day reprieve.
Prison officials are preparing for an influx of protesters.
"I anticipate that we will have more protesters than usual, and more media than we generally have," said Larry Fitzgerald, spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
"We had a meeting last Friday in which we discussed security concerns," he added. "Obviously I am not prepared to talk about that, but we are aware there might be some heightened interest and we're taking appropriate steps."
David Atwood, president of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, said members of his organization would hold a prayer vigil for Beazley.
"He's a youthful offender," said Mr. Atwood, "and certainly I disagree with executing juvenile offenders. Pretty much all of us who are against the death penalty think it's particularly offensive in such cases."
Ed Marty, a Smith County assistant district attorney who helped prosecute the case, said he thought it offensive that those who advocated leniency for Beazley seldom considered the victim or his family.
"He tracked [the victims] for a few miles. When 63-year-old John E. Luttig drove his car into his driveway, Beazley got out of his car, took off his shirt and ran up the driveway, with the purpose of killing someone to get their car. Not just getting their car, but to shoot and kill someone to get the car."
According to the testimony of his partners, who testified in return for life sentences, Beazley shot Mr. Luttig once in the head, then ran to the passenger's side and shot at Mrs. Luttig, then shot the driver again. Mrs. Luttig scrambled under the car and played dead as the carjackers sped away. She survived the attack.
Though the 10-6 vote by the pardons board on Monday was unusual it usually falls closer to 14-2 or 15-1 in such cases board Chairman Gerald Garrett said it showed "a clear majority of the members concluded that the sentence assessed by the jury and reaffirmed through various appeals should be carried out." He said he had voted for commutation, but would not elaborate.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide