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Cedric Coleman, Donald Coleman, and Bobbie Luttig testified against Beazley at his trial. A jury found him guilty of capital murder in March 1995 and sentenced him to death. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the conviction and death sentence in February 1997. Beazley received an evidentiary hearing for his state habeas corpus appeal in September 1997. That appeal was later denied, as were all of his subsequent appeals in state and federal court.
Cedric and Donald Coleman pleaded guilty to capital murder and received life sentences. They were also convicted of carjacking in federal court and are currently serving time in federal prison.
After the trial, the Coleman brothers recanted some of their testimony, claiming they were manipulated by Smith County prosecutor David Dobbs. "Dobbs actually threatened me by telling me if I didn't testify the way he wanted that he would make sure my brother got the death penalty," Cedric Coleman stated in an affidavit in July 2001. This matter was not raised in Beazley's original state habeas corpus appeal. Beazley's lawyer, Walter Long, also raised some objections regarding the fairness of Beazley's trial, such as the fact that his jury was all-white, while he was black, and concerns that the victim's son, who is a federal judge, might have meddled in the case. Long argued that Beazley's former lawyer was incompetent for not making these objections during the case's habeas corpus stage.
Beazley was originally scheduled to be executed on 15 August 2001. The U.S. Supreme Court denied his final appeal, and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles rejected his clemency appeal by a 10-6 vote. However, on the morning of his scheduled execution, Beazley won a stay from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
In April 2002, the Court of Criminal Appeals ruled unfavorably on another death penalty case dealing with attorney incompetence during habeas corpus appeals. After making this ruling, the court lifted Beazley's stay and allowed his execution to be rescheduled.
Beazley's case drew international attention because he was 3½ months shy of his 18th birthday when he killed John Luttig. Texas is one of 22 states that allows the death penalty for defendants 17 or older, and the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld such state laws. Nevertheless, Beazley's lawyers and U.S. and international anti-death-penalty activists lobbied the governor and the parole board for clemency.
The victim was the father of J. Michael Luttig, a federal appeals court judge. Three members of the U.S. Supreme Court who have personal ties with Michael Luttig -- Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and David Souter -- removed themselves from Beazley's case whenever it was before them. In August 2001, the other six members of the court voted 3-3 to deny a stay to Beazley. On 27 May, when his stay request came before them for the second time, the vote was 6-0 against.
Legal experts said that none of the three Justices were legally required to remove themselves from Beazley's case, but they did so to remove the appearance of bias.
Beazley's own statements regarding his requests for clemency did not mirror the arguments made by his lawyer and the activists lobbying on his behalf. He did not claim that he was unfairly convicted or sentenced or that he did not deserve death because he was only 17 when he committed the crime. "I don't like to give ... explanations or excuses," he said from death row. "Whether I was 15, 16, 17, 21, 25, it should never have happened." Instead, he said that he was remorseful for what he had done, was a changed person, and was no longer a threat to anyone. "It's my fault," he said in a court hearing in April. "I violated the law. I violated this city, and I violated a family ... I'm sorry. I wish I had a second chance to make up for it."
When Beazley killed Luttig, he was from an upper-middle class family, was a star athlete at his high school, and was the president of his senior class. He had never been arrested, but he had started carrying guns and dealing drugs. "There is no turning point where I can say I decided to be bad," he said from death row. It's a process. An acorn doesn't become an oak tree overnight." A model prisoner during his eight years on death row, Beazley said that he was no longer a threat to anyone and could prove that he had changed.
Beazley said that the fact that people around the world were supporting him and working to prevent his execution gave him no consolation. "I could have the support of the whole world ... but if Mrs. Luttig and her family wouldn't give me [forgiveness], it would be for nothing."
Smith County District Attorney Jack Skeen, whose office prosecuted Beazley, said that Beazley's actions following the crime showed a lack of remorse. Skeen pointed out that Beazley avoided arrest for 45 days, attempted to hide the murder weapon, and lied to police about his involvement in the murder. He did not apologize to the Luttig family until his execution date drew near and his clemency requests were being prepared, prosecutors said.
On the day of his execution, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted 10-7 against commuting Beazley's sentence to life in prison. Governor Rick Perry declined to grant an emergency 30-day stay.
At his execution, the warden asked Beazley if he wanted to make a last statement. Beazley turned his head towards Suzanne Luttig, the victim's daughter, paused, and said "no." He shook his head, said, "no" again, and then turned his head to face the ceiling. He was pronounced dead at 6:17 p.m.
In a statement released to the media after his execution, Beazley apologized again for his "senseless" crime, but also criticized the Texas criminal justice system for not giving him a second chance.
By David Carson. Posted on 29 May 2002.
Sources: Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Texas Attorney General's office, Associated Press, Houston Chronicle, Tyler Morning Telegraph.