[DP] Fw. Urgent Action #EX 36/02 on USA ------TEXAS

Laura and Bill lkb4003 at labs.tamu.edu
Sat May 4 10:12:20 CDT 2002


Date: Fri, 3 May 2002 14:40:55 -0500 (CDT)
   From: Rick Halperin <rhalperi at post.cis.smu.edu>
Subject: Urgent Action #EX 36/02 on USA ------TEXAS





URGENT ACTION APPEAL



3 May 2002

EXTRA 36/02             Death penalty / Legal concern

USA (Texas)    Napoleon Beazley


Napoleon Beazley, aged 25, is scheduled to be executed in Texas on
28 May 2002 for a crime committed when he was 17 years old.
International law prohibits the execution of those who were under 18
at the time of the crime.

Napoleon Beazley, who is black, was convicted in 1995 of the
carjacking murder of a white man, John Luttig, in Tyler, Smith County,
in April 1994. Citing 'substantial contact with the family of the victim',
the prosecution refused to consider a pre-trial plea arrangement
whereby Beazley would plead guilty in return for a life sentence of 40
years without parole.  The same prosecutors accepted such a plea
bargain in the case of a white racist who was sentenced to 45 years
in prison, with parole eligibility after half that time, for killing a
homeless Tyler man in 1996 because he was black.

Napoleon Beazley's jury was all-white despite Smith County's
population being 20 per cent African American, and it later emerged
that at least one juror harboured severe racial prejudice against
blacks. In addition, one of the jurors appears to have been a long-
time employee of one of John Luttig's business partners, which was
not revealed during jury selection.

The jury's finding of Napoleon Beazley's 'future dangerousness' - a
requirement for a death sentence in Texas - had little support. A
stream of mitigation witnesses, including teachers, fellow school
pupils, and other members of the community, described a respectful,
decent, helpful teenager, whose involvement in the Luttig murder
appeared to be completely out of character. He had no prior arrest
record, and the prosecution produced no evidence of any other
assaultive acts by him. It therefore relied upon his two co-defendants'
testimony - a notoriously unreliable form of evidence - to assert that
Beazley had planned the killing and had no remorse for it afterwards.
In later affidavits, the two co-defendants stated that their testimony
was given in return for a prosecution promise not to pursue the death
penalty against them, that they had been told to 'make Napoleon look
as bad' as possible to the jury, and that he had not planned the
murder and had been very remorseful after the crime.

Recognizing young people's immaturity and potential for
rehabilitation, international law prohibits the execution of child
offenders - those under 18 at the time of the crime. This principle is
respected by almost every country in the world. Since 1995 the only
known such executions occurred in the USA (nine, five of them in
Texas); Pakistan (two); Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC - one);
Nigeria (one); and Iran (three). In 2001, the President of Pakistan
announced that he would commute the death sentences of all child
offenders on death row in his country. Amnesty International knows of
no executions since December 2000 in the DRC, where there is
currently a moratorium on judicial killing.

Napoleon Beazley came hours from execution in August 2001.
Appeals for clemency had come from many quarters. The District
Attorney of Houston County, whose jurisdiction includes the Beazley
family's home town of Grapeland and who is a 'strong advocate' of
the death penalty, called for commutation.  A former warden of death
row in Texas, who oversaw 22 executions, also opposes the
execution.

In a remarkable development, Judge Cynthia Kent, who oversaw
Napoleon Beazley's 1995 trial and who set his execution dates, wrote
to Governor Perry in August 2001 urging clemency, citing the
prisoner's age at the time of the crime as reason for commutation.
Eighteen members of the Texas legislature then wrote to the
governor: 'We join Judge Kent in her request for commutation of
Napoleon Beazley's death sentence because we are greatly
disturbed by the fact that Texas is now almost the sole executioner of
child offenders in the world. We desire Texas to be in the lead among
states and nations in affording her citizens the protection they
deserve to be given under universally-recognized, fundamental,
human rights norms.'

At the recent hearing at which his execution date was set, Napoleon
Beazley spoke of his remorse. In chains, weeping, he apologized to
all who had been affected by the crime, 'first and foremost, to Mrs
Luttig and her family.'

In Texas, the Governor can grant clemency if the Board of Pardons
and Paroles recommends it. In August 2001, it rejected clemency by
a vote of 10-6, an unusually high number of votes for commutation. At
the time the Board was unaware of Judge Kent's appeal. For more
information, see Too young to vote, old enough to be executed, AMR
51/105/2001, July 2001, and Death in black and white, AMR
51/117/2001, 9 August 2001.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly
as possible, IN YOUR OWN WORDS:
- expressing sympathy for the family and friends of John Luttig, and
explaining that you are not seeking to excuse the manner of his
death;
- expressing deep concern that Texas plans to execute Napoleon
Beazley in violation of international law, which is respected around
the world;
- noting the widespread support for commutation, even from the trial
judge, the Houston County District Attorney, and at least 18 Texas
legislators;
- noting the serious questions that have been raised about the
fairness of proceedings, including possible juror bias and the use of
unreliable co-defendant testimony;
- noting that despite the jury's finding of future dangerousness,
Napoleon Beazley has been a model prisoner and has justified the
confidence that mitigation witnesses had in his capacity for
rehabilitation;
- calling on the Board of Pardons and Paroles - in the interest of
justice, decency and the reputation of the State of Texas - to
recommend that Napoleon Beazley's death sentence be commuted
by the Governor.

APPEALS TO: If possible, please send appeals to all seven regional
offices of the Board if possible.
Salutation for all: Dear Board Members.
Address for all: Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, followed by:

1. Abilene Board Office, 100 Chestnut, Suite 105, Abilene, Texas
79602 Fax: 1 915-676-4921
2. Amarillo Board Office, 5809 S. Western, Suite 140, Amarillo, Texas
79110 Fax: 1 806-358-6455
3. Angleton Board Office, 1212 N. Velasco, Suite 201, Angleton,
Texas 77515 Fax: 1 979-849-8741
4. Gatesville Board Office, 3408 S. State Hwy. 36, Gatesville, Texas
76528 Fax: 1 254-865-2629
5. Huntsville Board Office, 1300 11th Street, Suite 505, P.O. Box 599,
Huntsville, Texas 77342-0599 Fax: 1 936-291-8367
6. Palestine Board Office, 1111 West Lacy St., Palestine, Texas
75801  Fax: 1 903-723-1441
7. San Antonio Board Office, 420 S. Main, San Antonio, Texas 78204
Fax: 1 210-226-1114

COPIES TO:
Governor Rick Perry
c/o Bill Jones, General Counsel
PO Box 12428
Austin, Texas 78711
Fax 1 512-463-1932 (General Counsel's Fax), or 463 1849
(Governor's fax)

Please also sent a copy of your appeals to the Board to:
Houston Chronicle, 1005 Congress Avenue, Suite 1060, Austin, TX
78701(mark 'for the attention of Janet Elliott'). Email:
janet.elliott at chron.com

PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY.


Urgent Action Network
Amnesty International USA
PO Box 1270
Nederland CO 80466-1270
Email: uan at aiusa.org
http://www.amnestyusa.org/urgent/
Phone: 303 258 1170
Fax:     303 258 7881





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