Ireland and Rena Beazley on Saturday buried their oldest son, executed for committing a fatal carjacking. Nearly 8 years to the day after he graduated with honors from Grapeland High School, Napoleon Beazley was executed Tuesday for the 1994 slaying of Tyler civic leader John Luttig, sparking worldwide criticism of the Texas death penalty. More than 700 people showed up at Mt. Zion Baptist Church for Beazley's funeral, but few tears were shed during the upbeat, 2-hour service. With hands interlocked and eyes squeezed shut, the crowd belted out hymns and prayed for Beazley and his family. Even the sticky heat in the tidy, clapboard church didn't sap the enthusiasm. After the service, the family cheerfully greeted mourners. The mood was generally upbeat this weekend at the Beazleys' quaint brick house, though there were some tears. As darkness descended on this East Texas town Friday night, the husband and wife of more than 30 years playfully teased each other and dozens of guests who came to lift their spirits with hugs, and sometimes, flowers. "At least he's free," said Napoleon Beazley's mother, Rena Beazley. "8 years is a long time to battle. It was just too much. It was tearing us up inside. Now, we're going to celebrate his life." In the days before Beazley's execution -- which sparked widespread criticism of Texas' capital punishment system -- his family said they attempted to suppress their grief so they wouldn't worry their condemned son. "He was carrying a lot of responsibility," Rena Beazley said. "He knew he disappointed us in April 1994 and he's been trying to make up for it. "We got 2 hours with him on (last) Saturday and it was just a regular conversation. He was not afraid of dying. He had prepared himself to die." During their final visit, the Beazleys said they were finally able to have a "contact" visit with their son. They hadn't touched their son in more than 7 years. Defense attorneys argued that Beazley's execution violated international law because of his age and said race played a role. Beazley is black, his victim was white and he was convicted of capital murder by an all-white jury. A former high school class president and star athlete, Beazley had been dealing drugs for several years but had not been caught. His parents said they had him tested for drugs twice, but the results came back negative. On the night of April 19, 1994, Beazley was carrying a .45-caliber pistol and had stowed a shotgun in his mother's car before he and two companions went to Tyler, about 60 miles north of Grapeland, to steal a car. After shooting Luttig, the 63-year-old father of U.S. Circuit Court Judge J. Michael Luttig, evidence showed Beazley stepped through a pool of Luttig's blood to go through his pockets. After retrieving keys to the Luttigs' 10-year-old Mercedes, Beazley hit a wall while driving away and was forced to abandon the vehicle. His 2 companions, Cedrick and Donald "Fig" Coleman, received life in prison. Beazley's father, wiping tears away, said Friday that he's coming to grips with the execution. "Our hearts are still grieving," he said. Beazley's mother said the execution has, in some ways, been a relief. "We put our lives on hold for eight years," said Rena Beazley, who has been hospitalized twice for depression in recent years. "I never thought I'd ever go to a prison, let alone death row. Every weekend we went down to death row to see Napoleon." Their youngest son Ireland Jamaal, who graduated from Grapeland High School with honors, is soon to go away to junior college. With time to mull over their eldest son's death, the Beazleys say they plan to join the fight to against Texas' death penalty. That next step, they say, will be proof that Napoleon Beazley didn't die in vain. "It was a huge eye-opener for us," Rena Beazley said. "We were the perfect family. We did everything by the book. If it can happen to us, it can happen to anyone. "Napoleon was a good boy. I'm so proud of him. He touched a lot of people. His life will speak for itself." (source: Associated Press)
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