Family buries son executed for murder

Sunday, June 2, 2002

GRAPELAND, Texas -- A day after celebrating their youngest son's high school graduation, Ireland and Rena Beazley buried their oldest son, executed for committing a fatal carjacking.

Nearly eight years to the day he graduated with honors from Grapeland High School, Napoleon Beazley was executed Tuesday for the April 1994 slaying of Tyler civic leader John Luttig.

On Friday, Ireland Jamaal Beazley graduated from the same high school with honors, receiving loud cheers as he confidently strode across the stage.

On Saturday the Beazleys buried Napoleon at tiny Mt. Zion Baptist Church. More than 700 people attended, holding hands and singing hymns and prayers for Napoleon and his family.

Napoleon's death brought dozens of guests down the winding, dusty road to the Beazleys' quaint brick house, where they expressed their sorrow with hugs and flowers.

"At least he's free," said Rena Beazley. "Eight years is a long time to battle. It was just too much; it was tearing us up inside. Now, we're going to celebrate his life."

Napoleon Beazley's execution for a crime he committed when he was 17 brought international scrutiny from critics of Texas' capital punishment system.

Defense attorneys argued that Beazley's execution violated international law because of his age and said race played a role. Beazley is black, his victim was white and he was convicted of capital murder by an all-white jury.

"All the people here know that Napoleon was not the horrific animal that prosecutors described him to be," Ireland Beazley said.

Under Texas law, any person who is at least 16 years old and is accused of a felony is considered an adult. Beazley's court-appointed defense attorney never made an issue of his client's age during the 1995 murder trial.

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