There are some times when, like it or not, we must fully face the spectrum of humanity–where political parties and social standings no longer matter. Sometimes we have to step back and see the world as a collection of people with a collection of stories.
Today I stumbled across a database distributed by the state of Texas providing the last words of death row criminals as well as listing of their crimes. In some ways it seems inhumane, in others it’s interesting, but it is compelling either way.
As I read through the list I became infatuated with reading the last words and crimes of the people executed. I realized that there were some young people executed. One person I saw, Toronto Patterson, was 24 when he died. The same age as me.
Now this isn’t an argument against or for the death penalty. I myself have argued both ways in casual conversations over the course of my life. But this post is about one set of last words that I may not ever forget. A man named Napoleon Beazley said these words before he left earth:
“The act I committed to put me here was not just heinous, it was senseless. But the person that committed that act is no longer here – I am. I’m not going to struggle physically against any restraints. I’m not going to shout, use profanity or make idle threats. Understand though that I’m not only upset, but I’m saddened by what is happening here tonight. I’m not only saddened, but disappointed that a system that is supposed to protect and uphold what is just and right can be so much like me when I made the same shameful mistake. If someone tried to dispose of everyone here for participating in this killing, I’d scream a resounding, “No.” I’d tell them to give them all the gift that they would not give me…and that’s to give them all a second chance. I’m sorry that I am here. I’m sorry that you’re all here. I’m sorry that John Luttig died. And I’m sorry that it was something in me that caused all of this to happen to begin with. Tonight we tell the world that there are no second chances in the eyes of justice…Tonight, we tell our children that in some instances, in some cases, killing is right. This conflict hurts us all, there are no SIDES. The people who support this proceeding think this is justice. The people that think that I should live think that is justice. As difficult as it may seem, this is a clash of ideals, with both parties committed to what they feel is right. But who’s wrong if in the end we’re all victims? In my heart, I have to believe that there is a peaceful compromise to our ideals. I don’t mind if there are none for me, as long as there are for those who are yet to come. There are a lot of men like me on death row – good men – who fell to the same misguided emotions, but may not have recovered as I have. Give those men a chance to do what’s right. Give them a chance to undo their wrongs. A lot of them want to fix the mess they started, but don’t know how. The problem is not in that people aren’t willing to help them find out, but in the system telling them it won’t matter anyway. No one wins tonight. No one gets closure. No one walks away victorious.”
Napoleon was arrested for killing a man and stealing his car with his friends. He was 17 years old at the time of the crime.
I know that his comments were politically charged and I just thought it was beyond moving in the way he talked about how he wished the world would move forward without him. I know this post is a bit of a downer, but I think we must remember when we talk about the “gays, jews, christians, killers, rapists, or whoever” that we are talking about people with parents and stories.
I cannot condone the actions of these people who were killed in Texas, but it hurts something deep in me to read their last words.