Killer Gets Reprieve Four Hours before Execution

By Aynesworth, Hugh | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 16, 2001 | Go to article overview

Killer Gets Reprieve Four Hours before Execution


Aynesworth, Hugh, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Byline: Hugh Aynesworth

HUNTSVILLE, Texas - As convicted murderer Napoleon Beazley sat within yards of Texas' death chamber writing a farewell letter to his mother and a final statement yesterday afternoon, prison officials told him that his execution - less than four hours away - had been postponed.

Beazley sat a moment stunned, then, according to a prison spokesman, said softly, "I just have to comprehend this."

Outside the prison walls, hundreds of protesters erupted with cheers when word of the reprieve reached them some 10 minutes later.

The stay of execution came from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, where Beazley's attorneys had filed a thick brief, charging that the 25-year-old Beazley had been denied his constitutional rights, that he had suffered jury bias and that prosecutors had coerced false testimony. It mentioned also that his age at the time of his crime, 17, should be considered.

The appeals-court decision, a rare one in a state known for its hard-nosed posture in meting out the death penalty, said: "Applicant is granted a stay of execution pending further orders from this court. The applicant presents 10 allegations challenging the validity of his conviction and resulting sentence."

It was not known whether that court was considering overturning the trial verdict and ordering a new trial or whether the stay was merely to give the tribunal more time to consider the several accusations in the appeal. Courts in earlier appeals have rejected many of the arguments made in the brief.

Beazley's age when he murdered an east Texas man in a 1994 carjacking has prompted an international firestorm over Beazley's fate.

Several church and human rights groups, as well as a handful of foreign nations, have proclaimed that Texas should not execute people younger than 18 for whatever felonies they might have committed. Law enforcement officials generally have agreed with the state's right toexecute 17-year-olds.

Beazley has admitted his role in the murder of 63-year-old oilman John Luttig of Tyler. He shot Mr. Luttig twice in the head at point-blank range and then tried to kill Mr.

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