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Thursday, 16 August, 2001, 10:26 GMT 11:26 UK
Senseless murder haunts teenage killer
Napoleon Beazley at time of arrest in 1994
Napoleon Beazley says he is a different person now
Napoleon Beazley, granted a stay of execution hours before he was due to receive a lethal injection, was convicted and sentenced to death for his role in a fatal car-jacking in 1994.

He admits that his teenage years were not wholly innocent - he dabbled with drug dealing, and carried a handgun.

But friends of the 25-year-old - who was only 17 at the time of the killing - say he is not the cold-blooded remorseless killer portrayed by the prosecution at his trial in 1995.

"I'm a different person now... I was different person then

Napoleon Beazley
''I'm sure he was portrayed to be the master killer, but that is not the Napoleon I knew,'' said childhood friend Casey Vickers, speaking to The New York Times newspaper.

Beazley was the president of his senior class, a star football player and very popular in his home town of Grapeland in Texas. His family was well-known and respected in the community.

From death row, where he has spent the last six years, Beazley does not proclaim his innocence, but will not shed any further light on what happened on the fateful night.

'Peer pressure'

''I can give you a list of reasons why I was easily influenced - peer pressure,'' he said in a recent interview.

He's an adult under Texas law, and the death penalty is certainly appropriate

Jack Skeen, prosecutor
''But other kids go through that same stuff, and they don't commit capital murder. It would come off as justification, and there is no justification for what happened.''

Beazley says that, as a light-skinned black teenager with mainly white friends, he acquired a gun and became involved in the world of drugs in an effort to fit in with black teenagers in the town.

''When I started selling crack, it was like, 'I'm cool, I can fit in','' he said. ''I didn't want to be shunned by the black community, I guess you could say. That's a sad thing to say.''


On 19 April 1994 Beazley and two friends - brothers Cedric and Donald Coleman - set off in his mother's car on a trip to the town of Tyler, 60 miles (37.5 miles) to the north.

Execution room
Beazley was due to receive a lethal injection
There, the three teenagers tried to "carjack" a Mercedes belonging to John Luttig, a businessman and prominent member of the local community.

Mr Luttig, 63, was pulling into the driveway of his house with his wife, Bobbie, when the three teenagers struck.

Although it remains unclear why, at some point during the attempt to snatch the car, Beazley pulled out his gun and shot Mr Luttig in the head. He died. His wife survived by crawling under the car.

The three assailants were arrested seven weeks later by police acting on an anonymous tip-off. They were tried separately.

'Random crime'

At Beazley's trial, the court heard that he had stood in a pool of blood while going through Mr Luttig's pockets, searching for the car keys.

Supporters of Napoleon Beazley
Beazley's family and death penalty opponents have welcomed the stay
Jack Skeen, the district attorney who prosecuted the case, has defended the death penalty due to the "random, predatory" nature of the crime.

"Clearly, he's an adult under Texas law and the death penalty is certainly appropriate," he said.

Despite his admission of guilt, others, including anti-death penalty pressure groups, say Beazley should be spared because of his age at the time of the murder and lack of a criminal record.

His execution would have been the 12th carried out in Texas this year. He would also have been the 19th US prisoner to be executed for a murder committed as a minor since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.

See also:

16 Aug 01 | Americas
Texas stays teen killer's execution
15 Aug 01 | Americas
US teen killer set to die
26 May 00 | Americas
When children kill
27 Jul 01 | Americas
US's hard line against youth crime
27 Jul 01 | Americas
US classroom killer jailed
12 Jun 00 | Americas
Most US death sentences 'flawed'
04 Jun 01 | Americas
US court overturns death sentence
11 Jun 01 | Americas
Death penalty worldwide
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