TEXAS, USA: APPEALS FOR CHILD OFFENDER NAPOLEON BEAZLEY AS TIME RUNS OUT

Napoleon Beazley (now aged 25), who in August 2001 came within hours of execution, is scheduled to die by lethal injection at 6pm Texas time for a crime committed when he was 17 years old, an execution that is prohibited under international law and would take place almost nowhere else in the world.

Amnesty International's appeal – including thousands of Air Mail postcard appeals from numerous countries, including the US itself – follows clemency calls from many quarters, including from the trial judge Cynthia Kent, a former warden of death row in Texas, and at least 18 Texas legislators.

Napoleon Beazley, who is black, was tried in 1995 before an all-white jury in Texas' Smith County (20% African American), a jury later revealed to have included a man harbouring severe racial prejudice.

The jury heard the prosecution labelling a teenager an 'animal' and listened to co-defendant evidence (notoriously unreliable) given following a prosecution deal that they 'make Napoleon look as bad' as possible. One juror also appears to have been a long-time employee of a business partner of the crime victim John Luttig (white) - father of a federal appeal court judge and prominent citizen in Tyler where the trial was held.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

'In Texas, under-18s are considered too young to vote, drink or serve on a jury, yet the state has no qualms in sentencing them to death.

America is almost alone in thinking it acceptable to execute a prisoner whose offence took place when still a child.'

Amnesty International is drawing attention to the fact that in recognition of young people's immaturity and potential for rehabilitation, international law prohibits the execution of child offenders – those under 18 at the time of the crime.

This principle, respected by almost every country in the world, has meant that since 1995 the only such executions have occurred in the USA (nine, five in Texas), Iran (three), Pakistan (two), the Democratic Republic of Congo (one), and Nigeria (one). Recent underlining of this principle has included the President of Pakistan announcing in 2001 that he would commute the death sentences of all child offenders on death row in Pakistan.

Read Amnesty International's report (31 July 2001) on Napoleon Beazley's case

Read Amnesty International's document (9 August 2001) on a racist killing in Texas of a homeless African American (contrasting Napoleon Beazley's case)

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