Jurors did the inconceivable; they punished the guilty

Tuesday, August 28, 2001 at 1:00am

It now turns out the same people who are hysterical about the possibility of executing the innocent are also hysterical about the idea of executing the guilty. Unless you are zealously opposed to capital punishment in all cases (except a baby sleeping peacefully in its mother's womb), death row inmate Napoleon Beazley deserves the death penalty.

Beazley, 25, was the senior class president who put a gun to the head of a 63-year-old man and pulled the trigger. He lost his proud boast of having no criminal record when he killed a man at 17 years old. Along with his two hoodlum friends, Beazley confronted John Luttig and his wife Bobbie in their own driveway in 1994. Beazley wanted their Mercedes-Benz, so he shot them.

He then walked into a puddle of Mr. Luttig's blood and shot him a second time directly in the head. He rifled through the dead man's pants pocket for the car keys and took the Mercedes. Mrs. Luttig survived by playing dead.

This wasn't a crime out of Columbo. Beazley crashed the Mercedes a few blocks away and left it behind, awash with his prints. Also not good from the "perfect crime" standpoint, Beazley had previously informed his classmates that he soon expected to be driving a Mercedes.

The evidence was overwhelming and, consequently, 12 jurors sentenced Beazley to death. The jury's correct conclusion that he committed a felony murder he admits to, Beazley says, was sadly predictable: "The cards were stacked against me already." Evidently, the real reason for the jury's verdict was not the heinous murder but rank prejudice. As Beazley explained: "[The victim] was a prominent businessman. I was at his home, in his area. People were already pissed off. I wasn't too shocked [about the verdict]."

A touching show of remorse.

The fact that no one claims Beazley is innocent is the only truly shocking development. Preposterous claims of innocence are de rigueur in death penalty cases. The most likely reason Beazley's lawyers opted against a manifestly false claim of innocence is that the victim's son is a prominent federal judge. He could probably publicize the true facts of the case if necessary.

In all other respects, Beazley's post-conviction claims are indistinguishable from those of all the "innocent" guys on death row. Inevitably, the defense counsel steps forward to admit he did a lousy job in order to create an "ineffective assistance of counsel" claim.

Also like clockwork, some soppy-headed lady lawyer involved in the case, generally the prosecutor, will issue a surprise plea for the killer's life. In Beazley's case, it was the presiding trial judge, Cynthia Kent.

Then there are the rote claims of racism. This time we have that assertion on the word of a criminal defense attorney. As a rule of thumb, criminal defense lawyers would gleefully sign affidavits swearing the earth is flat if it would prevent just one vicious killer from being executed.

Finally, Amnesty International complains that Beazley is being punished for an act he committed as a child. Beazley, it seems, was a few months shy of his 18th birthday when he murdered Mr. Luttig in cold blood.

Nevertheless, it can now be said that even when the defense counsel is ineffective, the trial judge opposes the capital sentence, an attorney cries racism and Amnesty International is hysterical, American juries still manage to come to the correct decision! Beazley admits he committed a barbaric murder. That's precisely what the jury found.

Ann Coulter is a syndicated columnist.

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