Archive for Monday, June 10, 2002

Words linger after execution

June 10, 2002


There is nothing I or anyone else can do for Napoleon Beazley now, except ...

Except remember him, and continue to fight against the unjust absurdity of something called capital punishment.

Although I had promised myself that I would not write about the death penalty for a while, convinced that most of you have long since turned a deaf ear to me and others on the subject, I must speak once again.

Not for me, but in remembrance of Beazley. Actually, I plan to let Beazley speak for himself in this column.

No, I will not recount his story here, or dwell on the fact that many around the world fought and prayed that he would be spared from execution, partly because he was only a teen-ager at the time his crime was committed.

No, I wouldn't bore you by detailing the story by Joel Anderson of The Associated Press, who began his article: "A day after celebrating their youngest son's high school graduation on Friday, Ireland and Rena Beazley buried their oldest son, who was executed for shooting a man to death during a carjacking."

And, no, I won't talk about how many of us held our breath until the final hour of May 29 waiting for some black-robed, fair-minded justice to cry out: "Halt! Stop! Cease and desist!"

In the end, voices that should have mattered that should have spoken up were hopelessly, pathetically silent.

But there was a voice that was meant to be heard.

Today, I want you to hear the final statement of a condemned man, a human being who was not the same man present at a murder scene 15 years ago. Hear the last written statement of a man for whom I have much more feeling than I do for those who most recently passed judgment on him.

Here is the final statement of Napoleon Beazley, dated May 28:

"The act I committed to put me here was not just heinous, it was senseless. But the person that committed that act is no longer here I am.

"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.

"If someone tried to dispose of everyone here for participating in this killing, I'd scream a resounding, 'No.' I'd tell them to give them all the gift that they would not give me ... and that's to give them all a second chance.

"I'm sorry that I am here. I'm sorry that you're all here. I'm sorry that John Luttig died. And I'm sorry that it was something in me that caused all of this to happen to begin with.

"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.

"This conflict hurts us all. There are no sides. The people who support this proceeding think this is justice. The people that think that I should live think that is justice. As difficult as it may seem, this is a clash of ideals, with both parties committed to what they feel is right. But who's wrong if in the end we're all victims?

"In my heart, I have to believe that there is a peaceful compromise to our ideals. I don't mind if there are none for me, as long as there are for those who are yet to come. There are a lot of men like me on Death Row good men who fell to the same misguided emotions, but may not have recovered as I have.

"Give those men a chance to do what's right. Give them a chance to undo their wrongs. A lot of them want to fix the mess they started, but don't know how. The problem is not in that people aren't willing to help them find out, but in the system telling them it won't matter anyway. No one wins tonight. No one gets closure. No one walks away victorious."

Bob Ray Sanders is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. His e-mail address is

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