Office of the Attorney General News Release Archive

Friday, May 24, 2002

MEDIA ADVISORY

Napoleon Beazley Scheduled to be Executed

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn offers the following information on Napoleon Beazley, who is scheduled to be executed after 6 p.m. on Tuesday, May 28, 2002.

MEDIA NOTE: In two related cases, Thompson v. Oklahoma, 487 U.S. 815, 108 S. Ct. 2687 (1988) and Stanford v. Kentucky, 492 U.S. 361, 109 S. Ct. 2969 (1989), the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Eighth and 14th Amendments prohibited the execution of a defendant convicted of first-degree murder when he was 15 years old, but a defendant's constitutional rights were not violated when the sentence was imposed on a defendant who was at least 16 years old at the time of the capital offense. Most states cite Stanford as justification for imposing capital sentences on 16 or 17 year olds.

FACTS OF THE CRIME

On March 17, 1995, Napoleon Beazley was sentenced for the capital offense of murdering John Luttig during a car jacking in Tyler, Texas, on April 19, 1994. At the time of the crime, Beazley, now 25, was approximately three and a half months short of his 18th birthday.

A summary of the evidence presented at trial follows.

On April 18, 1994, Beazley and his friend, Cedric Coleman, drove from their homes in Grapeland to Corsicana. Cedric had plans to meet some girls at a Corsicana college. Previously, Beazley had repeatedly expressed a desire to steal a car, and friends had seen him carry a gun. On the way to Corsicana, Beazley told Cedric that he wanted to jack a car." Beazley carried a .45-caliber pistol on the trip.

When reaching the college campus, Beazley looked around at cars and asked Cedric when the students would return to their dorms. Later in the evening, Beazley stated that he wanted to go to Dallas to steal a car. However, Cedric talked Beazley into waiting another day and the two returned home.

On April 19, 1994, Beazley told a friend that he might soon be driving a Mercedes to school. That evening, Beazley borrowed his mother's car and drove with Cedric and Cedric's younger brother Donald, to Corsicana. Beazley brought his .45-caliber pistol, as well as a sawed-off shotgun.

After driving to Corsicana, they decided to drive to Tyler, and on the way, Beazley spotted a Lexus and told Cedric to follow it. They followed the Lexus to Tyler, but eventually lost sight of it, which angered Beazley.

Later, when heading to a local restaurant, Beazley saw a Mercedes in the restaurant's parking lot. As the driver of the Mercedes exited his vehicle, Beazley jumped out of his car armed with the .45-caliber pistol. However, the driver entered the restaurant before Beazley could reach him, apparently without noticing Beazley.

Cedric yelled at Beazley to get back into the car, and without stopping to eat, Cedric began driving the group back home. Beazley ordered Cedric to turn around and return to Tyler, commenting, "You know, I guess I'm going to have to shoot my driver." Cedric then pulled the car over and told Beazley that, under the circumstances, he would have to do his own driving. Beazley took the wheel and stated again that he wanted to steal a car. When Cedric asked why, Beazley explained that he wanted to see what it was like to kill somebody.

As the group approached Tyler for the second time, Beazley spotted a 1987 Mercedes driven by John Luttig. He and his wife, Bobbie Luttig, were on their way home from Dallas. Beazley followed the Luttigs to their home and stopped at the end of the driveway. Beazley got out of the car and stripped off his shirt. Armed with the .45-caliber pistol, Beazley ran toward the garage. Donald followed shortly after, carrying Beazley's sawed-off shotgun. Beazley fired one round from his pistol, hitting Mr. Luttig in the side of the head, leaving him alive but stunned and in a seated position. Beazley next ran around the car where Mrs. Luttig was getting out of the vehicle and fired at her at close range. Although he missed, she fell to the ground. Beazley then returned to Mr. Luttig, raised his gun, took careful aim, and fired point blank into Mr. Luttig's head. Standing in his victim's blood, Beazley then rifled Mr. Luttig's pockets looking for the keys to the Mercedes.

As he searched for the keys, Beazley asked Donald if Mrs. Luttig was dead. When Donald said she was still moving, Beazley shouted for him to shoot her, but Donald refused. Beazley then moved to shoot her, but Donald quickly recanted his previous statement and said that she was dead. [Mrs. Luttig survived the incident and later testified at Beazley's trial.] Once Beazley found the keys to the Mercedes, he jumped into the car and ordered Donald to get in. Beazley then backed the car out of the garage. However, he ran into a retaining wall, damaging the vehicle, causing him eventually to abandon it a short distance away. He then rejoined the group, who had followed him from the crime scene, in his mother's car. Beazley stated that he would get rid of anyone who said anything about the incident. Beazley and his cohorts returned to Grapeland.

A few days after the crime, Beazley confided to a friend that he and the Coleman brothers had attempted to steal a car, and he had shot a man three times in the head and had attempted to kill a woman. When arrested, Beazley's father asked if he committed the crime of which he was accused, and Beazley replied he had.

Beazley later commented, in describing his experience of the car jacking and murder, that it "was a trip."

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

July 7, 1994 - Beazley was charged by an indictment returned in Smith County, Texas, with the capital offense of intentionally murdering John Luttig during a robbery.

March 17, 1995 - A jury found Beazley guilty of capital murder on March 13, 1995, and following a separate punishment hearing, assessed the death penalty.

Feb. 26, 1997 - The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied relief on 38 points of error, affirmed Beazley's conviction and sentence, and later denied rehearing in April 1997. Beazley did not seek certiorari review from the U.S. Supreme Court.

June 3, 1997 - Beazley filed an application for state writ of habeas corpus raising four claims with the state trial court of conviction.

Sept. 5, 1997 - An evidentiary hearing was held by the trial court.

Oct. 31, 1997 - The trial court entered findings of fact and conclusions of law denying habeas relief.

Jan. 21, 1998 - The Court of Criminal Appeals denied relief based on the trial court's findings and conclusions, and on the court's own review.

Oct. 1, 1998 - Beazley petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus raising 24 claims in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Beaumont Division.

Sept. 30, 1999 - The district court denied relief.

Oct. 26, 1999 - The district court denied reconsideration.

Dec. 28, 1999 - The district court granted permission for Beazley to appeal one issue regarding the appropriate federal habeas standard for review of state court judgments.

June 1, 2000 - Beazley filed his brief on appeal addressing the one issue approved by the district court and requested the Fifth Circuit to expand the appeal to cover nine additional issues.

Feb. 9, 2001 - The Fifth Circuit issued a published opinion affirming the denial of habeas relief and denied Beazley's requests to expand the issues on appeal.

March 15, 2001 - The Fifth Circuit denied Beazley's petition for rehearing.

March 30, 2001 - The 114th Judicial District Court of Smith County, Texas, scheduled Beazley's execution for Aug. 15, 2001.

June 13, 2001 - Beazley petitioned for certiorari review raising three claims from the denial of federal habeas relief.

June 28, 2001 - Beazley applied for a stay of execution from the U.S. Supreme Court.

Aug. 13, 2001 - The United States Supreme Court denied Beazley's application for stay. Justices Scalia, Thomas and Souter take no part in the consideration.

Aug. 15, 2001 - The morning of his scheduled execution, Beazley filed a successive application for state writ of habeas corpus raising 10 claims and a motion for stay of execution, which were both promptly forwarded to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. The State filed a response in opposition. Early that afternoon, the Court of Criminal Appeals granted a stay of execution "pending further orders of the court."

Oct. 1, 2001- The United States Supreme Court denies certiorari review. Justices Scalia, Thomas and Souter again take no part in the consideration.

Apr. 17, 2002 - The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals vacates the stay of execution and dismisses Beazley's successive petition as an abuse of the writ.

Apr. 26, 2002 - The 114th Judicial District Court of Smith County, Texas, scheduled Beazley's execution for May 28, 2002.

May 7, 2002 - Beazley files a petition for clemency with the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.

May 13, 2002 - Beazley files a supplemental petition for clemency.

May 17, 2002- Three death row inmates with execution dates -- Johnny Joe Martinez, Gary Etheridge and Beazley -- filed a suit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Corpus Christi Division, under 42 U.S.C. sec. 1983, complaining that Texas' system of appointing capital habeas counsel has deprived them of adequate, effective, and meaningful access in the state courts and thereafter in the federal courts. The inmates sought temporary restraining orders and preliminary injunctions.

May 17, 2002 - United States District Judge Hayden Head dismissed the 1983 lawsuit, and the petitioners filed notice of appeal.

May 21, 2002 - The Fifth Circuit issued an opinion affirming the lower court's judgment, denying injunctive relief and construing the 1983 suit as a motion for authorization to file a successive petition, denying same.

May 22, 2002 - Martinez and Etheridge appeal the Fifth Circuit's order re: the 1983 suit to the United States Supreme Court; however, Beazley does not join. Petitioners filed an application for temporary restraining order and a petition for writ of certiorari.

May 22, 2002 - Martinez/Etheridge application and petition are both denied by the Supreme Court. Justices Scalia, Thomas and Souter took no part in the consideration or decision of the application and petition.

May 22, 2002 - Beazley petitions for certiorari review of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Feb. 17, 2002, dismissal of his successive state habeas application, and raises two claims (with nine allegations) to the United States Supreme Court.

May 23, 2002 - The State files a brief in opposition.

May 23, 2002 - Beazley files an application for stay of execution.

** Currently, Beazley's petition for certiorari review and his application for stay of execution are still pending with the United States Supreme Court. In addition, his petition for clemency is still pending with the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.

PRIOR CRIMINAL HISTORY

No evidence of prior criminal convictions was presented to the jury at the punishment phase of trial. However, the jury heard evidence that Beazley had been selling drugs since age 13.

MISCELLANEOUS

For additional information and statistics, please log on the Texas Department of Criminal Justice website, www.tdcj.state.tx.us.

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