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Texas Appeals Court Issues Stay of Napoleon Beazley's Execution

Aired August 15, 2001 - 15:33   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: There is a late-breaking development in the case of Napoleon Beazley just hours before his scheduled execution in Texas.

Joining us now with the latest is our CNN justice correspondent Kelli Arena, who's standing by in our Washington bureau right now.

Kelli, what's going on?

KELLI ARENA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Joie, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has issued an emergency stay regarding the execution of Napoleon Beazley. The court says that's pending further action.

We're waiting for the court order to be faxed to us, but basically Napoleon Beazley will not be executed by lethal injection, as expected, this evening.

As you know, this case has had lots of controversy surrounding it. No. 1, first and foremost, Napoleon Beazley was only 17 when he committed murder, although he does admit to committing the murder. He was 17, and many have argued that perhaps he should not be sentenced to death but rather have his sentenced commuted to a life in prison sentence.

Also, the man that he murdered was the father of a very prominent federal judge, and some suggest that perhaps that judge's influence may have played a role in how this case went down and the fact that he was indeed sentenced to death.

So -- but the big headline here, Napoleon Beazley will not be executed by lethal injection tonight. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals issuing a stay, and we're waiting to hear more details -- Joie.

CHEN: Kelli Arena, there had been some controversy with the Supreme Court's role, the nation's Supreme Court role, in the execution of Napoleon Beazley. Explain that to us.

ARENA: That's right. There were three judges that recused themselves from the decision, which ended up being to deny a stay of execution for Beazley. That's because three Supreme Court justices did have personal relationships with the federal judge whose father was killed. You had a split 3-3 decision ultimately. Three justices said that they would have voted for a stay, three said that they wouldn't have voted for a stay. So you had a tie essentially. You needed a majority there to go, and you had three recusing themselves.

Very rare for three Supreme Court justices to recuse themselves from a decision. One whole -- one-third of the court basically did not -- did not participate in this decision. And the fact that it was a tie was also evidence of even more fracture here. So, that was what was happening at the Supreme Court.

There was still a broader appeal before the Supreme Court on whether or not it is indeed constitutional for the United States to execute people who commit crimes under the age of 18. Now, in the state of Texas, you must understand, that 17 is considered the legal age, and there have been other people who have committed crimes under the age of 18 who have been executed. If he been executed, he would have been 19th person to be executed in the United States since 1976 who was under 18 when he committed a crime -- Joie.

ARENA: CNN's Kelli Arena, our Justice Department correspondent joining us from our Washington bureau. Again, the late headline coming to us from an appeals court in Texas. They have issued a stay of the execution, which had been scheduled for later today, of Napoleon Beazley.

CNN is continuing to follow this developing story. As Kelli Arena told us, there is still information coming in from the Justice Department on this particular matter. We get the details for you as we find them.

Now, let's go back to TALKBACK LIVE.

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