Beazley executed for carjacking murder

May 28, 2002 at 9:07 PM
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HUNTSVILLE, Texas, May 28 (UPI) -- Napoleon Beazley was executed Tuesday for the 1994 murder of a federal judge's father in a controversial case that renewed the national debate about capital punishment for juveniles.

Beazley was 17 when he shot 63-year-old John F. Luttig in the head during a bungled carjacking at Tyler in East Texas. He was pronounced dead at 6:17 p.m. CDT after receiving a lethal injection and only hours after his final appeals were exhausted.

In a final statement, Beazley was remorseful about killing Luttig, a prominent Tyler businessman, but he said he was disappointed that he was denied a second chance.

"Tonight we tell the world that there are no second chances in the eyes of justice ... tonight, we tell our children that in some instances, in some cases, killing is right," he said.

Beazley, who was 25, said he hoped that others on Texas death row would be given another chance to right their wrongs.

"No one wins tonight," he said. "No one gets closure. No one walks away victorious."

Beazley was the 14th convicted killer executed this year in Texas and the 270th since the state restored the death penalty in 1982.

The Supreme Court denied Beazley's final appeal with Justices Antonin Scalia, David Souter and Clarence Thomas excusing themselves from the decision as they did last August in his case because they know the victim's son, a federal judge.

Earlier in the day, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted 10-7 against recommending commutation to Gov. Rick Perry and 13-4 against a delay.

Perry could only issue a 30-day, one-time delay on his own without a recommendation from the board and late in the day he refused.

In a brief statement, Perry said Beazley's case had been fully reviewed by both state and federal appeals courts and there was no question of his guilt.

"To delay his punishment would be to delay justice," he said. "I am, therefore, rejecting his request for a 30-day reprieve."

The Beazley case drew more attention than most Texas executions because of his age at the time of the crime and the victim's family connection with the Supreme Court.

Luttig's son is Federal Appeals Judge J. Michael Luttig, who once clerked for Justice Scalia. Last August, Scalia, Souter and Thomas removed themselves from the Beazley decision when he asked for a stay of execution.

An array of groups wrote the state pardon and paroles board and the governor in opposition to Beazley's execution because they opposed the death penalty and also because of his age when he shot and killed Luttig.

Some of them pointed to Beazley's background in the small town of Grapeland in East Texas where he was an accomplished student, athlete and president of his senior class before he joined with two accomplices in the 1994 carjacking at Tyler.

In a recent interview with Texas Cable News, Beazley said that his age at the time of the crime should not be an excuse. He said the public should look at the man he has become. "Look at who I am, versus my age at the time of the offense," he said.

Beazley's attorneys unsuccessfully argued that executing an offender who was under 18 at the time of the offense violated the Constitution. They also argued to no avail that the execution of youthful offenders violated international laws.

Sixteen of the 38 states with the death penalty set a minimum age of 18 for capital punishment, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Texas is among five states with a minimum age of 17. Seventeen states have 16 as the minimum age.

Although not as well known as Beazley, two other convicted killers are facing execution in Texas during August for murders they committed when they were 17.

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