Too Young to Drink, but Not to Die ; Napoleon Beazley Was Just 17 When He Killed a Man. Tomorrow, He Faces Execution by Lethal Injection. Andrew Buncombe Questions the Decision of an All-White Jury
Buncombe, Andrew, The Independent (London, England)
The small black and white photograph sitting in the home of Ireland and Rena Beazley shows a young boy kitted out with a running- vest, a baton and a happy, spontaneous smile. He can be no more than 13 years old. "He was a good athlete even at that age," said Mr Beazley, as he put down the framed portrait on the sitting-room table. "But then I would say that. I am biased. I am his father."
Tomorrow, unless there is some last-minute reprieve or intervention from the courts, the young man in the photograph - Napoleon Beazley - will be executed by lethal injection. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice calculates that the combination of three chemicals that will be pumped into his body him will cost the state a total of $86.08. And there are some that say his life is not worth even that.
Napoleon Beazley is a convicted murderer - found guilty of committing a terrible, pointless crime. His lawyers admit that, his parents admit that and - from his vantage point on Death Row where he has been for the last six years - so does he.
But if Napoleon had committed his crime in China, Yemen, Russia, Indonesia or even Congo, all of which do have the death penalty, he would not be facing the deadly cocktail tomorrow evening because his crime was carried out when he was just 17. In virtually every country in the world, he would be considered a juvenile and ineligible for execution.
But not in the United States. Although the US has signed a number of international treaties that should ban the executions of offenders under the age of 18, it still claims the right to put them to death. Of the 25 documented executions of juveniles in the past decade, 13 of them were carried out in the US - seven in the state of Texas. Only Iran and Somalia can compare. As campaigners point out, in Texas you can be too young to sit on a jury but old enough to have one condemn you do die.
America, of course, can shrug its shoulders, Texas can shrug its shoulders, the state's former Governor, President George Bush, can say that this is what the United States does. But the case of Napoleon is again focusing attention on whether or not the US's use of the death penalty is appropriate or fair. Campaigners point out with a degree of black humour that when Mr Bush talks of the threat to human rights from "rogue nations", he might also look a little closer to home.
"No one doubts that the murder Napoleon committed was a terrible act of violence," said Rob Freer, a researcher with human rights group, Amnesty International, one of many organisations that has taken up Napoleon's case. "Those who have suffered deserve compassion, respect and justice. These objectives cannot be furthered by killing Napoleon Beazley." He added: "Iran and Congo are the only other countries with organised governments that in the last four years have carried out executions of people under the age of 18. But recently Congo commuted the death sentences of five children."
Napoleon's journey to Death Row began in horrific circumstances on the night of 19 April, 1994. That night, he and two friends - brothers Cedric and Donald Coleman - set out in Napoleon's mother's car on a trip to the town of Tyler, 60 miles north of their East Texas home in Grapeland.
Although Napoleon had no criminal record, he has since admitted that at the time he was involved with selling drugs, in particular crack cocaine. He insists he was just a part-time player, though he had recently bought himself a .45 handgun. That night Napoleon - president of his senior year at High School and recently enlisted for the Marines, and the Coleman brothers tried to "carjack" a Mercedes Benz belonging to John Luttig, a Korean War veteran and a leading member of Tyler society. Mr Luttig, 63, was pulling into the driveway of his house with his wife, Bobbie, when the three teenagers struck.
It is still …
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Publication information: Article title: Too Young to Drink, but Not to Die ; Napoleon Beazley Was Just 17 When He Killed a Man. Tomorrow, He Faces Execution by Lethal Injection. Andrew Buncombe Questions the Decision of an All-White Jury. Contributors: Buncombe, Andrew - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: August 14, 2001. Page number: 7. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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