- The Washington Times - Monday, May 27, 2002

LIVINGSTON, Texas The hours draw near for a death-row inmate here as lawyers, politicians and internationally known religious leaders battle to save his life and Texas officials fight just as hard to put him to death.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday declined to intervene.
The only hope now for Napoleon Beazley is an appeal to the state Pardons and Parole Board, which could recommend to the governor that Beazley's sentence be commuted to life.
That board will vote tomorrow and is expected to vote against Beazley's appeal as it did by a 10-6 vote in a similar juncture reached last summer.
This isn't a case of potential innocence. No one has ever disputed that Beazley killed 63-year-old Tyler businessman John Luttig on April 9, 1994. The victim's wife testified that she rolled under a car and played dead to escape being shot as the killer pumped two fatal bullets into Mr. Luttig.
Beazley admitted the crime, describing it as "a terrible mistake and an unconscionable one."
So, in a state that executes more felons that any other five states combined, tomorrow evening's scheduled execution of Beazley would not ordinarily get much attention.
But at a time when some states have halted all executions and others have refused to execute those who were juveniles when they committed their crimes, Beazley's case because he was 17 at the time of the incident has captured the attention of activists on all sides of the capital punishment spectrum.
Some say it is inhumane to put children to death no matter what the facts of the case. Just as vocal are those who say "the law is the law is the law."
Beazley's attorneys, Walter Long and David Botsford of Austin, claim that Beazley, who is black, suffered bias because of ineffective counsel and an all-white jury claims that were turned aside by the state Court of Criminal Appeals earlier.
Others claim that the identity of Beazley's victim the father of a Richmond federal appeals judge pressured the local prosecutor to go for the death penalty.
The fact that Beazley was president of his high school class and a star athlete who had never been in trouble before should weigh toward clemency, his backers claim.
The trial judge, citing Beazley's age at the time of the killing and his superlative school record before that, last year wrote a letter to the state Pardons and Parole Board, asking that they recommend a commutation to life in prison the same punishment given to two companions the night of the murder. The board refused.
But just before Beazley was to die last summer, the state Court of Criminal Appeals stepped in to consider some of his attorneys' claims, beginning an indefinite stay of execution.
Last month, the appeals court lifted that temporary order and the trial judge, Cynthia Kent of Tyler, set a new execution date May 28.
From the bench Mrs. Kent said that while she had a "principled objection" to the state executing Beazley, she was "very bound by the constraints of the law."
Thursday in a state Senate pressroom at the state capitol in Austin, a bevy of Beazley backers called on the state to "stop killing children."
They displayed thousands of signatures asking for clemency including the trial judge, 18 state legislators and a host of church groups, bar association leaders and Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, who wrote he was "astounded" that Texas still executes juvenile offenders.
Defense attorneys explained they had filed another appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court, requesting a review of the case. Hours before the Supreme Court rejection, Mr. Botsford said he remained "optimistic."
The situation surrounding the Supreme Court and this case is perhaps the most unusual situation of all. Three of the justices Antonin Scalia, David H. Souter and Clarence Thomas recused themselves last year because the victim's son, J. Michael Luttig, a judge on the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, had either advised or clerked with the three high court members.


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