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Scheduled To Die / Discussion and Activities

October 3, 2002
Web posted at: 10:20 PM EDT (0220 GMT)

Segment Summaries and Discussion Questions

(Teachers: This program focuses on a controversial topic, the death penalty. The program contains scenes and accounts that many individuals may find disturbing. Please preview the program to determine whether it is appropriate for your students.)

Segment One: The city of Huntsville, Texas, houses the state's death chamber, where criminals sentenced to die are put to death by lethal injection. Christiane Amanpour takes us to the town's prison museum and its "death house." We meet the facility's public information officer and chaplain, who explain their roles when the death sentence is carried out.

Back in Austin, attorney Walter Long is desperately trying to halt Napoleon Beazley's execution. Long and his assistant file several appeals in an attempt to save Beazley's life. As they scramble to save him, public information officer Larry Fitzgerald's job is to choreograph the media response to the scheduled execution. In the meantime, young journalist Michelle Lyons prepares to witness her fiftieth execution in her coverage of the event for the local newspaper. Beazley has asked his mother, Rena, to stay home on the day of his execution.

  • Why has the small city of Huntsville, Texas, attracted worldwide attention?
  • What are some of the items available at the town's prison museum? What is the museum's biggest attraction? Why do you think visitors want to see "old sparky"?
  • Where is the state's "death house" located? How would you describe its setting? Why are inmates busy grooming the grounds?
  • Of what crime has Napoleon Beazley been convicted? How old was he when he committed this crime? What is his sentence? How will it be administered? When is he scheduled to die?
  • Who is Larry Fitzgerald? What does a public information officer do? What information does he offer Christiane Amanpour about the death house and the process of carrying out the death sentence? Did any of this information surprise you? Explain.
  • How does prison chaplain Jim Brazzil help inmates on their last days? How do he and Larry Fitzgerald each view their jobs?
  • What is an appeal? On what grounds is Walter Long appealing Napoleon Beazley's case?
  • Who is Michelle Lyons? How old is she? Why does she witness executions? How many has she witnessed? Have these experiences affected her? Explain.
  • What wish has Napoleon Beazley conveyed to his mother prior to his execution date? How does she feel about his request that she stay home?
  • Segment Two: Huntsville has averaged an execution per month for the past twenty years, so Beazley's case is nothing new. His execution has barely made the local news, but his crime made headlines seven years ago. The brutal murder of John Luttig and the attempted murder of his wife, Bobbie, resulted in a three-week trial, guilty verdict, and death sentence. While the Luttig family continues to mourn their loss, Napoleon Beazley can offer no explanation, no rationale, for his crime.

  • In what respects is Napoleon Beazley "the last person you'd expect to meet on death row"? Does he offer any reason for his criminal actions? Is there anyone he blames for his behavior?
  • How did Beazley and his friends choose John and Bobbie Luttig to be their victims? Where did the murder take place? How did Ms. Luttig survive the attack?
  • Who is Jack Skeen? Why do you think he put Ms. Luttig on the witness stand? What did her testimony accomplish? What rationale does juror Steve Aubuchon offer to support the death penalty for Napoleon Beazley? How did the Luttig family respond to the verdict and the sentence?
  • Segment Three: As time runs out on Napoleon Beazley, the international media descends on the death house in search of an interview with him. Many in the international press don't conceal their feelings about capital punishment; they consider it "barbaric." Napoleon Beazley has international supporters, including Judy Hammond of Holland, who regards herself as Beazley's "soul mate." While victims' rights advocates view capital punishment as punishment that fits the crime, others, like defense attorney Walter Long, see it as a violation of human rights.

  • Why have international journalists come to Huntsville? What is Larry Fitzgerald's role in this media event? How do many of the international journalists feel about the death penalty? Why do you think it is politically popular in the U.S.?
  • Where does Judy Hammond live? Why has she made several trips to Huntsville, Texas? What is her opinion of Napoleon Beazley's sentence?
  • According to Amnesty International, what seven countries currently execute juvenile offenders? Who is Dianne Clements? What is her opinion of the death penalty? Why does she believe that Beazley's age (when he committed the crime) should not be a factor in the sentence?
  • What is Walter Long's rationale for his anti-death penalty view? Why is he continuing to work so hard to save Beazley? How does this work take a toll on him, both physically and emotionally?
  • Segment Four: After six years on death row, execution day dawns for Napoleon Beazley. While Beazley is transported to the death house, the judge who presided over his trial asks the governor to reduce Beazley's sentence to life in prison. Meanwhile, Beazley's lawyer moves ahead with appeals in the event the judge's plea does not work. Beazley's family makes funeral arrangements for Napoleon.

  • What are members of Napoleon Beazley's family doing on the scheduled date of his execution? What is going through Michelle Lyons' mind as she is preparing to witness another execution?
  • What "breakthrough" happens as Walter Long and David Botsford continue their fight to save Beazley? In spite of this news, why do the lawyers continue to file appeals on Beazley's behalf?
  • Segment Five: At 2:15 p.m., Napoleon Beazley receives a stay of execution. His lawyers are jubilant. His family receives the news with hugs and prayers of thanksgiving. For the Luttigs, however, the nightmare continues.

  • What is a stay of execution? How do Beazley's attorneys react to the news of the stay? How does Beazley's family react when they hear the news?
  • Which member of the Luttig family had planned to witness Beazley's execution? According to prosecutor Jack Skeen, what has the Luttig family endured over the past six years? How do you think the Luttig family received the news of Beazley's stay?
  • Describe the roles of Larry Fitzgerald and Jim Brazzil upon hearing of Beazley's stay of execution. As one informs the public and the other informs the accused, what different reactions do you think each encounters?
  • Segment Six: Eight months after Napoleon Beazley was granted a stay, and eight years after John Luttig was gunned down in his driveway, Beazley's execution is back on track. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has dismissed Beazley's plea for clemency, so a new execution date is set. Once again, the Beazley and Luttig families prepare for Napoleon's execution.

  • What prompts Judge Cynthia Kent to set a new execution date for Napoleon Beazley? What method of execution is specified in this sentencing?
  • Summarize Napoleon Beazley's address to the court. What do you think he means when he speaks of his "misguided emotions"? Beazley indicates that he wishes he "had a second chance to make up for it." Do you think he should have been given a second chance? Why or why not?
  • Where is Judy Hammond on the morning of Beazley's execution? With whom is there one last hope of stopping Beazley's execution? What does Hammond learn when she calls Beazley's attorney, Walter Long, for an update?
  • Why does Long finally decide to drive to Huntsville? What news does he receive while en route? What connection could the Missouri case have to Beazley's? What does Long ultimately decide to do?
  • Where are Suzanne Luttig and Jack Skeen? Why do you think Suzanne Luttig wants to be present at this execution? Where is the Beazley family?
  • What last-ditch efforts are Beazley's lawyers pursuing as time runs out?
  • In his last statement, Napoleon Beazley says, "Tonight we tell the world that there are no second chances in the eyes of justice. Tonight, we tell our children that, in some cases, killing is right. No one wins tonight. No one gets closure. No one walks away victorious." After the execution, prosecutor Jack Skeen states, "As difficult as it is on everyone involved, I think when that day finally comes and that individual who has committed the horrific crime of capital murder is executed we can say that the criminal justice system has worked." How would you respond to each of these statements?
  • Activity Suggestions:

    What is the history of crime and punishment in the U.S.?

    Your students may be interested to know that the first established death penalty laws date as far back as the Eighteenth Century B.C.E., in the Code of King Hammaurabi of Babylon. Hammaurabi's Code detailed 25 crimes punishable by death. The ancient Greeks and Romans also incorporated the death penalty into their laws, using various gruesome methods of execution, such as crucifixion, for those found guilty of crimes.

    When European settlers came to the New World centuries later, they brought with them the practice of capital punishment. There are records of executions in the Jamestown Colony of Virginia in the early Seventeenth Century. In 1612, Virginia Governor Sir Thomas Dale enacted the Divine, Moral and Martial Laws, which authorized capital punishment for such minor offenses as killing chickens, stealing grapes, and trading with Indians. By the time the Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791, the no "cruel and unusual punishment" clause of the 8th Amendment was widely accepted, but so was the continued practice of capital punishment. Treason and counterfeiting were crimes punishable by death in the young United States.

    Challenge your students to conduct research to learn more about the history of crime and punishment in the United States. You may want to divide the class into groups and have each group select a time period to research. Have students note the social trends and constitutional issues that have shaped the course of criminal justice throughout U.S. history. Share students' findings in class discussion. Discuss contemporary issues surrounding capital punishment in the U.S. What political and social factors influence current death penalty laws? Discuss.

    What cases have had a bearing on the implementation of the death penalty?

    Divide the class into small groups. Direct each group to choose one of the following cases to research as it applies to the death penalty:

    Furman v. Georgia, 1972

    Gregg v. Georgia, 1976

    Jurek v. Texas, 1976

    Proffitt v. Florida, 1976

    Woodson v. North Carolina, 1976

    Roberts v. Louisiana, 1976

    Coker v. Georgia, 1977

    Lockett v. Ohio, 1978

    Ford v. Wainwright, 1986

    Thompson v. Oklahoma, 1988

    Have each group present the circumstances surrounding each case, its outcome, and its significance to capital punishment in the U.S. Discuss the role of the judicial system, not only in prosecuting criminal cases, but in offering the right of appeal and interpreting laws on sentencing. Invite a prosecutor and a defense attorney to share their perspectives of the judicial system and the ways in which the system works for both victims of crime and the accused.

    What are your students' views on capital punishment?

    Provide your students with copies of each of these quotes, supporting and refuting capital punishment:

  • "If we execute murderers and there is in fact no deterrent effect, we have killed a bunch of murderers. If we fail to execute murderers, and doing so would in fact have deterred other murders, we have allowed the killing of a bunch of innocent victims. I would much rather risk the former. This, to me, is not a tough call." ---John McAdams - Marquette University/Department of Political Science, on capital punishment as a deterrent to crime
  • "A society that respects life does not deliberately kill human beings. An execution is a violent public spectacle of official homicide, and one that endorses killing to solve social problems---the worst possible example to set for the citizenry. The benefits of capital punishment are illusory, but the bloodshed and the resulting destruction of community decency are real."---Hugo Bedau in "The Case Against the Death Penalty"
  • Allow time for class discussion and analysis of each of these quotes. Then, challenge students to formulate their own opinions on capital punishment. Direct students to write essays explaining which of these two sentiments they support more, and why. If necessary, allow the opportunity for additional research to help students develop the rationale for their opinions.

    What would you have done?

    After viewing the CNN Presents Classroom Edition: Scheduled to Die, ask students to put themselves in the jury box at Napoleon Beazley's trial. What sentence would they have advocated, death or life in prison? Challenge students to consider how they would have voted, and what would have prompted them to arrive at their decisions.

    Keywords:

    Appeal

    Capital Punishment

    Conviction

    Criminal Justice

    "Cruel and Unusual Punishment"

    Death Penalty

    Death Row

    Lethal Injection

    Sentence

    Stay of Execution

    8th Amendment

    Verdict

    Victims' Rights




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