ATTORNEYS for man facing execution for slaying judge's father ask Thomas to recuse self

Monday, August 13th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) _ Attorneys for a man facing execution for killing the father of a prominent federal appeals judge have asked U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to withdraw from considering any last-minute action in the case.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has already removed himself from the case of Napoleon Beazley, who is scheduled to be executed Wednesday night for the death of John Luttig.

Beazley has acknowledged the crime. The Supreme Court, which has never ruled in his case, is considering requests from his attorneys that they review the case and stop the scheduled lethal injection.

Walter C. Long, Beazley's appellate attorney, faxed a letter to the clerk of the Supreme Court on Friday evening asking Thomas to withdraw from the case.

``Mr. Justice Thomas and Judge Luttig have a close personal friendship, so close, in fact, that Judge Luttig risked ethical violation by representing Mr. Justice Thomas during the Senate hearings after he had been appointed to the federal bench,'' the letter said.

Long told The New York Times in Monday's editions that Thomas had credited Luttig with his having won his confirmation battle for the court. ``We were unaware of the closeness of his relationship with Judge Luttig,'' he said.

The 63-year-old victim was slain during a 1994 carjacking in Tyler, Texas, when Beazley, now 25, was just 17. He was the father of Judge J. Michael Luttig, who sits on the Richmond, Va.-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Long noted in his letter that Scalia had already disqualified himself. Even though Scalia did not explain his reasons, the younger Luttig once served as his law clerk and Scalia has known the family since that time.

The elder Luttig was confronted in the driveway of his home in Tyler, about 90 miles southeast of Dallas, the night of April 19, 1994. His wife, Bobbie, was shot at but crawled beneath the car and played dead.

The impending execution has drawn particular attention because of the prominence of the victim's son and because of Beazley's age at the time of the crime. Beazley is among 31 Texas death row prisoners who were 17 _ the minimum age to receive the death penalty _ at the time of their crime.

Nationally, he would be the 19th inmate U.S. inmate since 1976 to be executed for a murder committed when the killer was younger than 18.

Amnesty International highlighted the case in a recent report, calling the United States ``a rogue state as far as capital punishment is concerned.'' The American Bar Association, while it has no position on the death penalty in general, opposes it for anyone under 18.

Donald and Cedric Coleman, Beazley's accomplices, each received life sentences.

Long contends one reason prosecutors sought the death penalty against Beazley was that the younger Luttig is a judge, which prosecutors deny.

``The decision was made solely by me,'' said Smith County District Attorney Jack Skeen Jr., adding that Luttig's position didn't affect how the case was handled.

Neither the younger Luttig nor his mother plans to witness the execution.

``I don't want any more pain,'' the judge told the Tyler Morning Telegraph. He said he would feel sadness Wednesday night ``because of the horrible tragedy for both families.''