Tuesday, July 18, 2006

No One Walks Away Victorious

A few years ago, while doing research for a grant application for HIV prevention programming with inmates in the Texas prison system, I came across a list of executed inmates that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice maintains on their website. It is surprisingly well maintained, with up-to-date information on the executions and a profile of each inmate on death row - including each person's last statement.

A part of me was fascinated by this information and, instead of continuing with my research, I spent the entire afternoon reading about the men and women that had passed through death row. I went through each person's online file: demographic information (the bulk of the offenders were Hispanic or Black and young), the official 4 or 5 sentence description of the crime committed, dates the inmate was admitted and executed, and two photos - one straight shot and one profile.

Once I had a bit of background about the crime, I would read each person's last statement. Most involved God, many insisted they were innocent and were being injustly committed of a crime, some asked for forgiveness, some asked for peace, and others simply stated "Warden, I'm ready."

There was one last statement, however, that hit me in the guts and made me cry. It was this statement that, seemingly out of the blue, I remembered this morning and felt compelled to share.

Napoleon Beazley, a Black man from Houston, was arrested at age 18 for shooting an elderly man in the forehead while attempting to steal his car. Seven years later, at the age of 25, Napoleon was given a lethal injection by the State of Texas. These were his last words on May 28, 2002:

"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 ma 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 stated, but don't know ho. 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."

11 comments:

no exist said...

No one walks away Victorious...I think this resumes what is going around the world.
We have build a world using the right morals and values but adjusting them in such a way that in any circumstance they would suit us, they will serve ...the worst we have in us...injustice, poverty, war, hunger, prostitution, exploitation....Look at this world, and all in the name of justice, in the name of God, in the name of good.
Prisons should have been places where people rehabilitate, turn better, useful...ideal?...well we all know prisons are places where the modern society throws the outcasts, the problematic, the ones that turned into murderers, thieves, drug addicts, prostitutes. Sometimes people are thrown in there that are innocent, that are victims of the circumstances , victims of injustice and sometimes we kill these people as well, just to release a statement a few years later saying that it was a mistake and that we are sorry!!
I feel shame for all of us that elect these people to rule us.
I feel shame and powerless like many of you out there.
I feel shame that Africa is like this.
I feel shame that In Lebanon 204 innocent people were killed over the weekend.
I feell shame that only 500 meters away from my house in Ealing , west London I saw poverty and filth, I saw people suffering, people at their lowest. I feel shame that I live in a city like this. I feel shame and anger.
I hope one day I will be able to be heard and talk or better show all this injustice!

kanuthya said...

Thank you for writing about this. It's outrageous, insane...blind people applying the an eye for an eye principle. Just recently the Philippines abolished the death penalty. It never prevented crime, anywhere in the world...
My father has told about the book Cell 2455, by Carl Chessman since I was a child. It isn't easy to find, at least in my experience. Have you read it?

Anonymous said...

Hi again Ali!
Like you, I read Napolean Beazley's last statement a few years ago and was moved. Then I heard about him again in law school.

This case got a lot of media attention and was even appealed all the way up to the supreme court, because Beazley was actually only 17 when the crime was committed. His lawyers argued it's cruel and unusual to suffer the death penalty for a crime committed as a juvenile. Of course, he lost.

An interesting thing - the victim's son is a very prominent federal judge who almost certainly would have been nominated to the Supreme Court if Alito had declined for some reason. All the justices on the Supreme Court know him and 3 justices recused themselves from the decision because they had worked closely with him in the past. So the Sr. Luttig was of course very unlucky to have been chosen as a target, and Beazley was also very unlucky to have chosen him. Just thought I'd throw a little of my law school 411 at ya.
And I hope I'll see you in the Bay in Sept. I'm not sure yet, cause I may be in New York at that time.
love, Jenny

Rrramone said...

Ali, this is a great post, and I went and spent some time reading last statements as well. It is so moving. Thanks for this gut check today. :-)

la vie en rose said...

...i have no words...

Safiya said...

I went to the link and the overwhelming feeling was the wasted lives. So many of those crimes were related to substance abuse.

The crimes of those executed are as much of an indictment of the society around them as they are of the person convicted.

_+*A Elite in Paris*+_ said...

I know you posted the whole statement but this sentence "But who's wrong if in the end we're all victims?" represents so much... people do justice by just making the same mistake.. how can we understand that? and we as libras, feel more hurt then ever. Lack of justice is not our vocation. And for this post: THANK YOU!

bart said...

thanks ali for pointing out the dark and dangerous side of our "civilisation"... at moments the need to exact revenge seems to weigh more heavily than offering the perpetrator the opportunity to better himself, whilst still being faced with the consequences of his/her deeds...

to take a life is to take away any chance of making amends, in a horridly final way and if it transpires to be an impossible undertaking, even then a life should be spared, but should also be isolated from a society in which he/she is unable to function in... only then could we be considered human/humane...

keep well...

paris parfait said...

Ali, thank you for sharing this young man's last words - so profound, from someone so young. I am just back from London and too exhausted to write more now, but your post is a shining example of why the death penalty is a bad idea and our prisons need revamping.

Michelle said...

I'm in Texas. I read some of the statements. It was chilling. I would like to show the world that site.

(via Sunday Scribblings)

dudleysharp said...

Napoleon Beazley: The Value of Last Words (1)
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters

FWST columnist Bob Ray Sanders, with a confusion that can best be described as willful blindness, seeks to enshrine the final words of capital murderer Napoleon Beazley.

The title of the column: "Beazley's own words best decry capital punishment"

It is Beazley who is decried, by his own words.
 
Beazley states "I'm . . . 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."
 
Beazley equates the premeditated, undeserved and brutal capital murder of a totally innocent man with his own just punishment for committing that crime. Such moral relativism is simply foul, regardless of your feelings about capital punishment.
 
Beazley humbly offers: "If someone tried to dispose of everyone here (those witnessing the execution) 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."
 
How generous. Beazley wouldn't execute those innocents witnessing his just execution. Saint Beazley.
 
And Beazley didn't have a second chance? Please.
 
He had infinite chances to choose a life outside of crime. He had a great life, a wonderful family, was president of his school class, a great athlete. He had it all. And what did he do? He threw it away, just as he so casually pumped two bullets into the head of John Luttig.
 
Mrs. Luttig survived by playing dead, after Beazley threw some lead in her direction -- he missed. He wanted her murdered.
 
Beazley continues: "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."
 
Just the opposite is true. Justice gave Beazley 8 years on death row to make every thing as right as he could. To make amends, to show true remorse and contrition. But, instead, he threw that opportunity away, as well.
 
Instead, it is all about poor Napoleon. And yes, Napoleon, it is a good lesson for our children. Yes, in some cases killing is right, though never easy. It is right to search out and kill terrorists that pledge to murder innocents. And, it is just and right to execute terrorists like Napoleon Beazley.
 
Napoleon asks: "But who's wrong if in the end we're all victims?" It is so common for self serving criminals to see themselves as victims. Beazley was no different.
 
Beazley implores: "Give (death row murderers) a chance to undo their wrongs." It is, of course, impossible to undo a capital murder and the ensuing horror and pain that still remains with those who cared and loved John Luttig.
 
You would think that after 8 years of dealing with his deep remorse that Beazley may have figured that out. But, it seems he figured out very little. More opportunities wasted.
 
Except for Napoleon's efforts at self pity, belittling murder victims and foul moral relativism. Those he figured out.
 
Mr. Sanders, Beazley's final words say little about capital punishment, but a lot about Napoleon Beazley.

copyright 2002-2008 Dudley Sharp
 
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
e-mail  sharpjfa@aol.com,  713-622-5491,
Houston, Texas
 
Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O'Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.
 
A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.
 
Pro death penalty sites 

homicidesurvivors(dot)com/categories/Dudley%20Sharp%20-%20Justice%20Matters.aspx

www(dot)dpinfo.com
www(dot)cjlf.org/deathpenalty/DPinformation.htm
www(dot)clarkprosecutor.org/html/links/dplinks.htm
joshmarquis(dot)blogspot.com/
www(dot)lexingtonprosecutor.com/death_penalty_debate.htm
www(dot)prodeathpenalty.com
http://yesdeathpenalty(DOT)googlepages.com/home2 (Sweden)
www(dot)wesleylowe.com/cp.html

Permission for distribution of this document, in whole or in part, is approved with proper attribution.

(1) To: Letters to the Editor, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
 not published Reply to the 6/5/02 column, Fort Worth Star-Telegram