Human Rights Watch called on the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole and Gov. Rick Perry to spare the life of Napoleon Beazley, who faces execution for a murder he committed at the age of seventeen. Beazley will be put to death on May 28 unless the Board recommends clemency and the governor acts on the recommendation.
The death penalty is not an appropriate punishment for a child," said Michael Bochenek, counsel to the Children's Rights Division of Human Rights Watch. "The horrific nature of Beazley's crime does not change the fact that he was an adolescent when he committed it."
Beazley is the first of four juvenile offenders scheduled for execution in the next three months. On June 5, Christopher Simmons' death sentence is set to be carried out in Missouri. Texas is preparing to execute two more juvenile offenders in the next three months: T.J. Jones on August 8 and Toronto Patterson on August 28.
Nationwide, twenty-two states maintain the death penalty for juveniles on their books, but only fifteen actually have juvenile offenders on death row. Eighty-two juvenile offenders are awaiting execution across the country; twenty-six, including Beazley, are in Texas.
Texas and a growing number of other states are having second thoughts about allowing juvenile offenders to be put to death. In the last legislative session, a measure that would have raised the minimum age for capital punishment to eighteen passed in the Texas House of Representatives and would have been approved by the state Senate if Gov. Perry had not threatened to veto it. Indiana abolished the death penalty for juvenile offenders this year. Similar bills are being considered in at least eight other states: Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina.
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.
Human Rights Watch opposes capital punishment in all circumstances because of its inherent cruelty.