Beazley attorney renews commutation effort
The attorney for Napoleon Beazley, the convicted murderer whose execution was put on hold by a Texas appeals court Wednesday, said Thursday he will again ask the state's Board of Pardons and Paroles to commute his client's death sentence to life in prison.
This time, said attorney Walter Long, he will include a copy of a letter written to Texas Gov. Rick Perry by the judge who presided over Beazley's trial in 1995.
State District Judge Cynthia Stevens Kent now recommends commuting Beazley's death sentence because he was 17 when he committed the crime. Such a letter from a presiding judge is highly unusual. Beazley is now 25.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stayed Beazley's execution Wednesday four hours before he was scheduled to die by lethal injection.
The court did not offer a reason for its stay, which remains in place until the court takes further action.
According to a court clerk, the appeals court is waiting until an opinion is issued in an unrelated case before dealing with the Beazley case. That could take weeks, if not months.
Beazley's case has drawn international attention because of his age at the time of the killing and because his victim, John Luttig, was a prominent businessman and the father of J. Michael Luttig, who later became a judge on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia.
Luttig was shot in the driveway of his home in Tyler, Texas, during an attempted carjacking in 1994. Beazley, president of his senior class, was identified as the triggerman and later admitted he was a crack dealer. Two associates sentenced to life in prison later recanted their testimony that Beazley had boasted of wanting to kill somebody.
Death penalty opponents from around the world sent letters and cards protesting the execution. The European Union urged Perry to stop the execution. Amnesty International criticized the United States and Texas for allowing executions in such cases.
The federal government and 15 states allow the execution of murderers 18 years old. Another five allow execution of 17-year-olds, and 18 states allow the execution of 16-year-olds.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court still has before it Beazley's petition to review his case on the question of whether it is constitutional to execute a person for a crime he committed as a juvenile.
A Supreme Court spokesman said only that Beazley's appeal is pending. The spokesman said that such cases are often considered "in due course," rather than expedited.
When the court denied a stay of execution for Beazley on Tuesday, three justices who had personal relationships with Luttig's son recused themselves -- Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and David Souter.
The three recusals raise the question of whether fewer than the usual four votes would be required for the nine-member court to take the case.
Some court experts said the justices might not want to hear a case knowing it could result in a 3-3 tie.
-- CNN Justice Correspondent Kelli Arena contributed to this report.
Texas execution stayed in world-renowned case
August 15, 2001
Europe steps in to death row case
August 15, 2001
Supreme Court denies stay of execution
August 13, 2001
Supreme Court of the United States
Texas Department of Criminal Justice
Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
European Union in the United States
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