Human Rights Watch today urged the state of Texas to commute the death sentence of Napoleon Beazley, who was convicted of murder at the age of seventeen. Beazley is scheduled to be executed on Wednesday unless the state parole board recommends clemency and Gov. Rick Perry grants it.
"The death penalty is not an appropriate sentence for a crime committed as a child," said Michael Bochenek, counsel to the Children's Rights Division of Human Rights Watch. "Children don't have an adult's maturity or restraint."
If his death sentence is carried out, Beazley will become the eighteenth juvenile offender to be executed nationwide and the tenth in Texas since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.
Twenty-three U.S. states allow the death penalty to be imposed on juvenile offenders, but only fifteen states actually have juvenile offenders on their death rows. Texas has nearly a third of the eighty-four juvenile offenders sentenced to death nationwide.
Nationally, the number of people sentenced to death for crimes committed as children has fallen in recent years.
In 1994, seventeen juvenile offenders were sentenced to death. Eleven received death sentences in 1998. Nine were given sentences of death in 1999, and last year capital punishment was imposed on six persons for crimes they were found to have committed as children.
Support for the juvenile death penalty may be waning even in Texas. In Harris County-which hands down more death sentences than any other county in the state-only 25 percent of residents supported the death penalty for juvenile offenders, even though 62 percent continue to support the death penalty overall, a February Houston Chronicle poll found.
Elsewhere in the world, only Congo and Iran are known to have executed juvenile offenders in the last three years. Each now explicitly repudiates the practice, making the United States the only country that continues to claim the legal authority to execute juvenile offenders