NO alla Pena di Morte
Campagna Internazionale 

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Comitato Paul Rougeau

Se il Texas non avrà fatto un passo in avanti sulla strada della civiltà, un passo che è ormai alla sua portata, Napoleon Beazley verrà ucciso il prossimo 15 agosto. Sarà una delle ultime esecuzioni di persone che erano minorenni all'epoca del delitto. Attualmente soltanto un terzo dei texani è favorevole all'esecuzione dei giovanissimi e la maggioranza dei parlamentari del Texas è contraria questo tipo di esecuzioni. Una legge che bandisca la pena di morte per i minorenni è ostacolata soltanto dai gruppi più conservatori, influenti ma fortemente minoritari. Pochissimi paesi al mondo condannano a morte minorenni, tra questi gli Stati Uniti si distinguono negativamente, in ossequio ad una tradizione nazionale dura a morire. Dopo la seconda guerra mondiale il più giovane americano ad essere 'giustiziato' fu il ragazzino nero George Stinney: aveva 14 anni ed era così piccolo che la maschera gli scivolò dal volto durante l'elettrocuzione. In precedenza il Governo federale aveva imposto la pena di morte a bambini indiani di appena 10 anni al momento del delitto. Delle nove ragazzine 'giustiziate' nella storia USA, 8 erano di razza nera e 1 era indiano-americana. Nell'ultimo secolo le esecuzioni di giovanissimi hanno per tre quarti riguardato i neri.

Rethinking death for juveniles

 July 27, 2001
Napoleon Beazley and two others approached a Texas couple one night in 1994 in their driveway, demanding keys to their Mercedes. In the haunting moments that followed, Beazley transformed himself from a popular and bright 17-year-old with no criminal record and a promising future to a murderer destined for Death Row.
The youth hadn't planned on killing anyone when they set out looking for a car to heist. But their carjacking turned tragic the moment Beazley panicked and fired two shots into the head of 63-year-old John Luttig as the war veteran's wife looked on.

One of Beazley's co-offenders, who provided the evidence that convicted and sent Beazley to Death Row, also remarked in an affidavit that Beazley was immediately remorseful and had to be talked out of committing suicide.

That doesn't come close to excusing Beazley's act. But as awful as this murder was, his scheduled execution in Texas on Aug. 15 isn't warranted. Offenders who were under 18 at the time of their crimes deserve punishment, but not the ultimate, irreversible kind.

Experience and common sense say that many adolescents haven't completely developed control of their actions. That assessment is given credence by scientific studies showing how pre-frontal brain tissue--governing impulse and emotion--continues developing into the early 20s. As horrible as the acts teenagers commit might be, this science suggests justification for why juvenile offenders should not be treated the same as adults.

Last month, a national bipartisan commission of judges, former prosecutors and victims advocates--including former FBI Director William Sessions and Oklahoma City bombing prosecutor Beth Wilkinson--issued 18 recommendations on how to improve the death penalty system. One was to stop executing juveniles.

Oregon prosecutor Joshua Marquis, an ardent supporter of capital punishment who is on the board of the National District Attorneys Association, last year told The New York Times, "It offends my conscience to execute someone who was under 18 at the time of the crime."

The district attorney in Beazley's home county, Cindy Garner, has called his act a regrettable but isolated incident that does not merit the death penalty. And this from a woman who, in principle, supports executing juveniles.

There's little reason to believe that Texas will spare Napoleon Beazley, who's now 24, from the death chamber; last year the state executed two juvenile offenders.

But let's hope that at a time when even Texas is revisiting the way it administers capital punishment, Texas Gov. Rick Perry will think deeply about what is gained by executing a once wayward youth who is deeply remorseful.