On April 19, 1994, Napoleon Beazley killed a man he was carjacking. He was 17 years old, and had a clean record; in fact, he was the president of his class, eschewed drugs and alcohol, ran track, and came from a fairly stable background. The man he killed was the father of J. Michael Luttig, a federal judge who sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit--a man many believed to be "on President Bush's short list for potential Supreme Court nominees." The Honorable J. Michael Luttig would take the stand himself to testify as to the awesome, irreparable grief his family had and would always continue to endure, though perhaps he found some consolation in the end, in the realization of his wish that "those who committed this brutal crime receive the full punishment that the law provides."

It is to be noted that the murder occurred in Texas, the state responsible for roughly one-third to half of the total executions taking place in America yearly. In Texas, unlike the large part of the United States, execution is not the last resort of the state in dealing with an individual who cannot be rehabilitated; the state of Texas understands execution as a means of just revenge rather than a means of extinguishing some permanent danger. Napoleon would be executed, not because he was a lost cause, not because he couldn't make it in society, but rather because justice called for it.

Beazley was convicted and sentenced to death. Amnesty International was outraged, the trial judge requested that the government commute the sentence to life, Ann Coulter ranted stupidly, and the question was delivered to the hands of the Supreme Court: can you try a minor as an adult, find him guilty, and execute him? The answer was, ultimately, a qualified "Yes": if it's in Texas, and as long as it's not a federal case.

Beazley's crime, considered within the context in which it occurred, warranted death: it was the law of the land. But was it necessary? Is it right to kill a potentially good man because he killed a good man? "Rehabilitation" or "justice", is the question--and each such a grey area.

I'm not going to struggle physically against any restraints, I'm not going to shout, use profanity, or make idle threats. Understand though that I'm not only upset, but I'm saddened by what is happening here tonight. I'm not only saddened, but disappointed that a system that is supposed to protect and uphold what is just and right can be so much like me when I made the same shameful mistake.

Beazley understood his execution as a murder equivalent to the murder he himself perpetrated, and though perhaps he is right that to kill needlessly is necessarily a crime, I am not convinced that these crimes are comparable: to kill a man without reason is to commit murder, whereas to execute a killer is to commit the crime of revenge.

On May 28, 2002, Napoleon Beazley was executed by lethal injection. He was the 30th individual to be executed in America in 2002, the 14th Texan.


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