Interview with Ireland Beazley

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  •  California 
People and Organizations 
  •  Beazley, Jamaal 
  •  Beazley, Napoleon 
  •  Beazley, Rena 
  •  Cherry 
  •  Coleman, Cedric (referenced as the "other two gentlemen" and then as "the Coleman boys") 
  •  Coleman, Donald (referenced as "other two gentlemen" and then as "the Coleman boys") 
  •  Dorothy 
  •  Ethan 
  •  Gant, Ronald Edwin ("Ron")
  •  Janie 
  •  Maria 
  •  Shawn 
  •  Skeet, Jack Marion, Jr. (Judge) 
  •  Warfield, Tim 
Table of Contents 
  •  Featured Segment: Mr. Beazley seeks legal help for Napoleon
  •  Introduction 
  •  Early life 
  •  Meeting Rena 
  •  Time between charging and trial 
  •  Trial 
  •  Family photographs 
  •  The death penalty is wrong 
  •  Watch Video 2 of "Interview with Mr. Ireland Beazley." 
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  •  RAYMOND: For the tape I'm going to say who we both are and who else is in the room. And then I can either—then you can just start talking. Say who you are or I can—we can back up into it and I can ask you your name and where you were born and a little bit about your family, and then— 
  •  IRELAND BEAZLEY: Whichever way you wanna go. 
  •  RAYMOND: How do you wanna do it? 
  •  IRELAND BEAZLEY: You have to ask me questions. You get me started. 
  •  RAYMOND: All right I'll get you started. I'll get you started. Okay, are we ready? 
  •  SOLIS: Yeah. 
  •  RAYMOND: Okay. All right, here we are in Grapevine and it's April fourth, 2008. Thursday. We are at the beautiful home of Ireland and Rena Beazley. And we're about to begin an interview with Mr. Beazley—Mr. Ireland Beazley. Also in the room—my name is Virginia Raymond, the voice. 
  •  IRELAND BEAZLEY: Also in the room is Mr. Gabe Solis who is running the camera, Mr. Papa Diallo; both of them are seniors in college at the University of Texas in—and Huston-Tillotson, respectively, and they work with our project. They're volunteers, interns. Also in the room, I should have said first, is the lovely and talented Ms. Rena Beazley and Walter Long. Okay so that's who we are and where we are. Okay, and you understand what this interview is about— 
  •  BEAZLEY: Yes ma'am, yes ma'am. 
  •  RAYMOND: Okay great, thank you. Now you're not gonna hear my voice very much now, hopefully. Ireland, I wonder if you could just tell us a little bit about when you were born? Where? Who your parents were? 
  •  IRELAND BEAZLEY: Well, I was born and raised here in Grapeland, not Grapevine— 
  •  RAYMOND: Oh, thank you. 
  •  IRELAND BEAZLEY: Grape—Grapeland, Texas and I was born thirteen west—west of Grapeland here. And my father—he was a farmer. Had six kids. And we basically, back in the sixties—fifties and the sixties—we grew up working on a farm. Making our own living from the farm. 
  •  BEAZLEY:  We grew most of our own food, and well, we did—we raised chickens, hogs, pigs, and corn. That's the stuff that we ate and grew up on. But, I guess, after graduating high school I didn't have that farm blood embedded in me so I wanted to move uptown. And so I moved uptown, got married, got me a job at Vulcraft, and—I've been with my wife ever since. And from the union we had three kids: Maria, Napoleon, and Jamaal. And I ain't got very much to say about myself. 
  •  RAYMOND: Okay, all right. 
  •  IRELAND BEAZLEY: You know. 
  •  RAYMOND: Well, thank you. What—Vulcraft was what kind of work? 
  •  IRELAND BEAZLEY: That was a steel plant. 
  •  RAYMOND: Okay. 
  •  IRELAND BEAZLEY: Where we built steel joist girders to go with big shopping malls and schools and places like that. I worked there for thirty-four years. 
  •  RAYMOND: Thirty-four years. From about when to about when? 
  •  IRELAND BEAZLEY: From 1971 to 2005. 
  •  RAYMOND: Okay, great, thank you. So, how'd you meet your wife? 
  •  IRELAND BEAZLEY:(laughs) 
  •  RAYMOND: You don't have to go there if [inaudible]— 
  •  IRELAND BEAZLEY: Oh, I was blessed—very fortunate that one night. I was sitting at the movies by myself and she came walking through and I kinda helped her to sit down beside me, and it started from there. And we've been together ever since—think I was a sophomore in high school when we started courting, and we've been together ever since. 
  •  RAYMOND: Okay. Well, I wonder if you could tell me about the kids' growing up, all three of them, and their— 
  •  IRELAND BEAZLEY: Well, Maria was, she was the oldest. Then Napoleon came practically—almost less than a year behind her. And so they were pretty close, so they were practically almost like twins. We almost treated them like twins; whenever one got something, the other one got something. Whenever one had a birthday we had to buy something for the other to appease the other. 
  •  BEAZLEY: They were just that close. And they were typical, normal kids growing up. Of course we loved them. I just was working hard trying to provide for them, give them everything and we just had the normal life [inaudible]. 
  •  BEAZLEY: I think my wife dealt more with Maria than I did, but I kinda dealt more or less with Napoleon being the first son. I was his t-ball coach and all that. And I took him fishing and all those little old different types of things. 
  •  BEAZLEY: Help him to ride his bike the first time and all that good stuff. So he was pretty close to me but I think he was a little bit of a mamma's boy. But it was—he was pretty close to me, too. 
  •  BEAZLEY: And, later on came Jamaal. And we kinda was not expecting him. But, he also was a great kid coming up. And I didn't do quite as much—I did do a little bit of the baseball and stuff with him. But I didn't do as much with him as I did with Napoleon, but that's because the situation with Napoleon. 
  •  BEAZLEY: I think Jamaal was eight years old when the situation with Napoleon came up and so we missed out on a lot of things. No, he was eleven years old—eleven years—ten years old. Okay, he was ten years old. And so we kinda missed out on a few things with him that I did with Napoleon. 
  •  BEAZLEY: And—but—it was a great life, enjoyed it. I thought I was living the American dream and everything. 
  •  RAYMOND: Why don't you tell me a little about Napoleon as he was growing up? I mean, what school—? 
  •  IRELAND BEAZLEY: Well, he was—I mean, we never got any bad reports on him. He had plenty of friends. And we went to all his—I practically went to all his games and he was into basketball. Wasn't quite as into basketball as much as he was football and baseball, but he played basketball briefly and then—but his favorite sport, I think, was football. And I definitely tried to make all his games. He made me so proud. 
  •  BEAZLEY: I think his sophomore year he made the varsity squad, which it made me real proud of him, and I think he—I thought he was a decent little ol' athlete and I think the coaches thought so as well. And he had a good football career, I think. But being with him in t-ball and all that kinda stuff, I kinda loved to see him in baseball more than anything else and he had good talent in baseball, as well. And I just enjoyed those days and those times with him. I thought he was pretty good. 
  •  RAYMOND: Can you tell me about his baseball career a little bit? 
  •  IRELAND BEAZLEY: Well, he started out in t-ball. I never will forget his first game in t-ball where the ball went way out there and he went chasing after it and—just little bitty steps and he was running and, he was just, he seemed like he was just dedicated. He loved to run, loved to chase the ball and stuff like that and one of the—but one of the most important things about him—I remember his first homerun that he hit. 
  •  BEAZLEY: It just didn't get over the fence by that much but you thought he had hit the World Series homerun. He was just jumping up and hollering—he was—that was one of the main things I remember about his baseball career. I never will forget. I was his coach at that time, too. That's the only one he got to hit. But when he got in high school he had a— 
  •  BEAZLEY: he had a stance that reminded me of Ron Gant at the time and I just wished he had stuck with baseball more than what he did but he was more into football at that time. 
  •  RAYMOND: But when did he switch to football? 
  •  IRELAND BEAZLEY: Well, high school. I think—I believe it was his sophomore year or his junior year, I can't remember. But they had went to—the team had went all the way to the semi-final game down at the Astrodome. And he had played in it. And then the next—but the next year he was the starting running back they didn't do as well because all the seniors had graduated and everything so—but he had a good career. 
  •  RAYMOND: You said that he had a lot of friends— 
  •  IRELAND BEAZLEY: Yes. Oh, yes. In the neighborhood that wewhere we stayed at— that was one of our biggest problems. It's cause all the kids that was coming down there playing with Napoleon and Tim. 
  •  BEAZLEY: Tim Warfield stayed right next door and they'd get out of school and I guarantee you there'd be five and six kids just coming down there just wanting to play with Napoleon and Tim. Had all these neighbors round here in Grapeland, they'd wind up right down there. We'd have a yard full of kids everyday and every evening. 
  •  BEAZLEY:  And they'd play—try to play baseball in the backyard which wasn't big enough for anything but they'd be out back out there trying to play baseball and everything. I mean kids from just all around the little neighborhood, they would all be coming down there and I—he—that was just his type of personality. He always had friends. I—now he may have had fights with—but I don't know about them. At least he didn't run home and tell us about it or anything like that. He had plenty of friends. 
  •  BEAZLEY: And then also because—I really can't explain it but the teams that he played on in t-ball and stuff like that most of the friends he had on there were white because generally nine times out of ten there wasn't but no Black on there but him or maybe one somebody else or something like that. So he had plenty of white friends that he would be associated with. He had plenty of friends all around. 
  •  RAYMOND: And when you talk—that period you're talking about with a little backyard, that's obviously a different house than where we are right now. 
  •  IRELAND BEAZLEY: Yes ma'am, yes ma'am, yes ma'am. 
  •  RAYMOND: Can you—what—what neighborhood was that? 
  •  IRELAND BEAZLEY: It's probably about—about what? A mile right down the road here, if that far. 
  •  RAYMOND: And tell me about that neighborhood and your house and— 
  •  IRELAND BEAZLEY: Well, it's— well, this is Grapeland. It's just a little small country town. And we live right next to a church and there was just—well a neighbor on this side and a neighbor behind us. It's just a small little old neighborhood there. And it's a—what you would say a city-neighborhood, what we would—country folks would call a city-neighborhood. 
  •  RAYMOND: What was the church that you were by? 
  •  IRELAND BEAZLEY: Oh, St. John Baptist. 
  •  RAYMOND: Is that your church? 
  •  IRELAND BEAZLEY: No ma'am. I attend Mt. Zion Baptist that's thirteen miles west out of Grapeland where I grew up at—in that community. 
  •  RAYMOND: Okay. Well I want to move into asking you about Napoleon in high school. And is that high school here in— 
  •  IRELAND BEAZLEY: Yes ma'am, Grapeland High School. And about the only—when he was in junior high is the only time that I knew of him having—I think one time he missed a no [pass]/no play rule. 
  •  BEAZLEY: But all the time during his high school I found him to be a little bit more stud—he was—he studied pretty good which was kind of a shock to me 'cause generally you don't have young kids—young Black kids—willing to do much studying at home. 
  •  BEAZLEY: But he did study and he had pretty good grades in high school, as far as I know. It may be different. They may know different. 
  •  BEAZLEY: But I didn't have no problems with him passing or anything like that. Like I said, I guess he was dedicated to sports and he knew without the—he couldn't play if he didn't pass. 
  •  BEAZLEY: So, he never did get involved—he wasn't involved in, say, going out every night and stuff like that. 
  •  BEAZLEY: Now on Saturday nights, and I'm talking about junior year now, he went out on little dates and stuff like that. 
  •  BEAZLEY: But we never had any problems out of him as far as being distrustful. We didn't get no calls from the school about him getting in trouble, about him getting in fights, or anything like that.  
  •  BEAZLEY: As far as we saw, he was just an all around kid and real—pretty popular. 
  •  BEAZLEY: Well, and this is—being a small community, he got some popularity I would think from Maria. Maria was a cheerleader and you know how kids are: if one sibling is pretty popular then they expect the second sibling to follow in that same footsteps. 
  •  BEAZLEY: So I think he got a little bit from that. 
  •  BEAZLEY: And then also he had his nephew—his first cousin, Kevin, which was, I think, he was about two or three years older than him—kinda laid the foundation. He was good at running back coming through. 
  •  BEAZLEY: He was a Beazley, so they kinda expected him to follow that same line, the same footsteps. He was all round pretty good. We didn't have no problems with him. 
  •  RAYMOND: Well, you talked about how things changed and how Jamaal's childhood was different. Can you tell me about how this—what was going on in your family and what—how did this find out about— 
  •  IRELAND BEAZLEY: Well, it was not anything going wrong, in my opinion. And as far as all the things that came out after everything started, and everybody about this little old incident to your attention and stuff like that, we didn't have—it just—the whole little situation just caught us off guard. We did not see it coming. If you have—if he had been a kid that was being disrespectful to his parents, staying out all night long, and all different types of things, we probably would've kinda, it wouldn't have been such a shock to say to him, "Well you got in trouble." 
  •  BEAZLEY: But it didn't happen like that. We just going along with our regular life, and then all of a sudden all of this just started unfolding right before our eyes. And seemed like once it started it wasn't anything we could do to stop it.  F.B.I. come in. I was at work when my wife had called me and told me that the F.B.I. had come and confiscated our car. Well, the first thing I did is I called Napoleon and said, "Napoleon, why are they taking—why are they doing that?" And he said he didn't know and so I stayed at work. 
  •  BEAZLEY:  And it wasn't until probably about seven o'clock that evening that my wife called me again and said that I needed to come home. And when I got home and that's when she told me that the F.B.I. was looking for him because they was accusing him in some case. And I mean, you really don't know where to turn, you don't know what to do. Well the first thing Napoleon went home, he went to his grandma's to spend the night, so now we gotta go find—my first impression is I gotta go find him. 
  •  BEAZLEY: And I get to Crockett and he's not at his grandmother's. And so I'm kinda panicking right about now. I gotta find him. I think I went to the police station and they says, "We need to find him before he hurt himself." 
  •  BEAZLEY:  Well, oh my goodness, what you mean "before he hurt himself?" You know? So I don't know what's going on and they ain't giving me no information so I'm running around Crockett trying to find him. And by the time I find him I'm probably goin'—done just about lost my mind. 
  •  BEAZLEY:  But we go to the police station and they release him. And we think it's over. Everything's gone but it wasn't three or four hours later they come back again. It was just a whole whirlwind situation. 
  •  BEAZLEY: And all that night up until—well, finally after all the trips up and down the road and everything, they decided they were gonna arrest him. And that's when we find out what they were accusing him of—and of course the other two boys have supposedly pointed the finger at him, and all this good stuff. 
  •  BEAZLEY: And what can you do? Our lives—my wife isn't at home and I'm dealing with all this. And so I'm thinking, What can I do? All I can do is follow them. They gonna take him to Tyler. So I say, Well I'm going, too. 
  •  BEAZLEY:  I ain't got no game plan of what to do. I ain't got no lawyer. I ain't got—I don't know what's going on. But I'm following them to Tyler because they got my son, 'cause I know my son ain't done nothing like that. I know they got the wrong person and—but they held us there all night and I didn't sleep at all that night. 
  •  BEAZLEY: And they never did take him to jail. But next thing you know they got him up there in that courtroom the next morning and they're charging him, and all this good stuff. So it just—everything just went wrong all of a sudden. 
  •  BEAZLEY: All that good life that we was—we been experiencing the years before, it went—just kinda went sour. And personally, why I say that because in eighty-nine I was blessed because my job I had become line supervisor. So financially I was bringing in more money than I had ever brought in my life. Things were going good. Bills were no problem. 
  •  BEAZLEY: Maria, she had already graduated so I was able to financially support her to get into Rice University in Houston. 
  •  BEAZLEY: And now Napoleon he's getting ready to graduate, he's decided he wants to go to the Marines, he's gonna try to be a lawyer, all those good things. So that's why I say life was going good and then all of a sudden this—all of this comes up. So you know we're headed down a different road than I had prepared forand just—I don't know what to say. 
  •  BEAZLEY:  I can't remember. I just can't remember how—what I was thinking about. I really just didn't know which way to turn. I did not know what to do. 
  •  BEAZLEY: And then when I look back on it, there's possibly some things we could have done that maybe could've prevented some of this because—just looking back, I think the justice system just took over and did whatever they wanted to, the way they wanted to. 
  •  BEAZLEY: And as you look today and you know what's going on, and you see and hear of cases where things went different because they had—people had lawyers to go in there and defend them—stuff like that. 
  •  BEAZLEY: I think that if I had known some of these things back then I probably could've—I ain't gonna say it could have been avoided, but it may have been. I don't know. 
  •  BEAZLEY: But that morning, after that—after all of that talking that they'd done that morning—and why I say some of the things of what I just said, is mainly this: because when they took him to Tyler one of the things that I did was I called Rena. I said, Rena, they're taking him to Tyler. Call Tyler and get me a lawyer, and tell the lawyer what's going on. 
  •  BEAZLEY: And at the time she was working for the county courthouse and so she had called a fellow that she knew that knew a little bit about lawyers. So supposedly she called. He had recommended one of the top lawyers in Tyler. And so she had called him and I was supposed to meet him in his office at seven o'clock that morning. 
  •  BEAZLEY: And they had taken Napoleon away and I didn't know where they had taken him. And they told me I couldn't go so I had to leave that place. And so I went to meet the lawyer and I got there at seven o'clock and was sitting in his office. And—but the man wasn't very sympathetic. 
  •  BEAZLEY: You know I was upset, I ain't gonna tell you no lie, I was crying and boo-hooing and bawling like a little baby but one of the things he said to me was that, "Mr. Beazley, we're gonna kill your son." 
  •  BEAZLEY: This lawyer, he was a investigator that was a part of the case. The friend who had recommended him didn't know that. 
  •  BEAZLEY: But we're talking about before he had any—had even been in court before a judge. And for this lawyer to say, "Are you prepared for your son to die?" Or something like that, it was pretty cold-hearted. 
  •  BEAZLEY: And from that day on, from that minute on, I knew—I stopped crying when he asked me that, I looked at him and I stopped crying because I realized, boy you in trouble, you in trouble. 
  •  BEAZLEY:  I never will forget that's when I—well—there you go. We were in trouble, but personally resolved. Okay, you wanna fight? We're gonna fight. Okay. 
  •  BEAZLEY: But if we knew things different we could have attacked it different. That's what I'm trying to say. But anyway, the little old—I don't know how to say it—the court-appointed attorney. 
  •  BEAZLEY: I would tell nobody to go with court-appointed. If you got your money you spend it. Although they tell you that it's kinda ridiculous to spend it. But if you got your money, you'll feel a lot—if you got any money, spend it. I didn't have none to spend. But if I'd had it, I would have. 
  •  BEAZLEY: They called it "the perfect case." The prosecutor the year after Napoleon was—they gave him an award for being the best lawyer in the state of Texas—Jack Skeen, but he's a judge now. 
  •  BEAZLEY: But anyway, what I'm saying is that I think that throughout the whole trial, it was—I don't feel like fairness was done in my opinion. But I guess you know I'm gonna be like that because—but I think the justice system just kinda overran and took it and did whatever they wanted to. 
  •  BEAZLEY: And things that would have been beneficial for Napoleon I think they were ignored. And when I say that, it's just like Napoleon was pretty dedicated, he was a power-lifting champ, he went to the state power-lifting meet and he would get up out of bed at six o'clock every morning before school to go and do his exercises and all those different types of things. So he had real muscle. And they said that he used that to be a brute over this—the victim. 
  •  BEAZLEY: In other words, not seeing the good in this kid working to achieve a goal, working to achieve something. They just said that he was a violent person, that didn't—he was not. That was just something that he had worked hard, he would get up out of bed at six o'clock every morning for good, work out before you go to school, working out after school, and all those good things. That was a personal achievement. Not something he used for crime. 
  •  BEAZLEY:  But anyway, that's just the way they did things in the whole—throughout the whole court system. Persecuted him for a little bit of everything. I don't think they even took into consideration his age. And they did not even take into consideration how much of an influence those other two gentlemen played upon the whole scenario. They just bluntly accused Napoleon of doing everything without having—without realizing that he was probably under peer pressure from them. So that's why I say the system it just didn't work properly. And I don't know what else to tell you. 
  •  RAYMOND: How do you—thank you for sharing this with us. How did you actually survive this period from the time that Rena called you about the F.B.I. to—   
  •  IRELAND BEAZLEY: I don't know. I was doing a lot of praying to be honest with you. And that's one thing that I did do also when we got to Tyler. I knew my pastor's number by heart. When they gave me access to a phone, I did call my pastor, and I got him to pray with me. So I can only say by the grace of God from that day and up until this day it's only been by of the grace of God that we've been able to go through the whole thing. You know? That's it, I mean. 
  •  BEAZLEY: Really I did not know what to do. I didn't know which way to turn. I did not know anything. Like I said, looking back on it, that morning they had appointed two sets of attorneys. They had federal attorneys and then they had state-appointed attorneys. And I'm sitting there and they asked me some questions that I answered them but I didn't know, for all I knew I was giving them consent to do whatever they wanted to with Napoleon. And nobody in all that process said anything about him being a minor.   
  •  BEAZLEY: They just ignored that, just completely ignored that. And I really did not—I didn't know what to do. I didn't know which way to turn. Didn't—really didn't know who to trust. I was just going through the motions to tell you the truth. And it was pretty heartbreaking. It really was. This was my son—just I couldn't believe it. 
  •  BEAZLEY: I really couldn't. I really couldn't believe it that it was happening to us. And then the hardest thing was having to come back home and having to tell everybody about this. Because my wife didn't know. She wasn't in there. It was just me, you know? And I was, oh boy, it was tough having to come back home and tell her that, you know?  
  •  RAYMOND: You were alone in Tyler?  
  •  IRELAND BEAZLEY: Yeah. It was—I did not want to come back and tell her that. I really didn't. But anyway, we had to fight, we couldn't—by the grace of God we made it. We made it. I ain't no weakling. (Laughter)  
  •  RAYMOND: Were you able to talk to Napoleon that day in Tyler?  
  •  IRELAND BEAZLEY: No. Let me see. It wasn't until the next day, if I'm not mistaken. We were able to go up there and see him in the city jail. And I don't know—yeah that's when it was. The next day before we were able to go up there and see him. And at the time we had contacted—another friend of ours had contacted us and tried to persuade us to get away from the court-appointed attorney. Well, so the next day we went to Tyler to talk with this fellow. And he seemed like a good fellow. 
  •  BEAZLEY: But we didn't have the money, you know? He was willing to do it, but we did not have the money, you know? And so—and basically the little court-appointed attorney, the state court-appointed attorney, he come running down to the jailhouse talking to us, tried to convince us that he was the right way to go and stuff like that. Since we didn't have the money, we went with the court-appointed attorney. But when we did see him—you got—he was still our kid. I didn't see it in him before and I didn't see it in him that day. 
  •  BEAZLEY: Shucks, he was still my kid. That's all I can tell you. He was just still my kid. But anyway, that's when—like I said, we just went day by day after that. We never had any good days. Just continued to go down, down, down. And the trial was—it wasn't—I don't know how to say it. Well it's the only trial I ever been in and I guess I don't know if I was expecting it'd be like the trials on TV when Perry Mason at the end jumps up and fools everything. 
  •  BEAZLEY: But it didn't come out like that, which is what we were hoping for. But it didn't come out like that. And things that we thought they shouldn't be doing, we saw them doing it. A lot of the statements that couldn't be proven being introduced as facts and all that kinda stuff. And just taking incidents to make it look like Napoleon was the worst thing that could live, you know? 
  •  BEAZLEY: The prosecutor even described him as an animal hiding in the jungle that was hunting somebody to kill. And he was allowed to say that kind of stuff. I mean—and the judge sat there and listened to him. Let the jury hear all that kind of stuff. I don't know. I don't know what to tell you.   
  •  RAYMOND: Do you want to take a little break for a minute?  
  •  IRELAND BEAZLEY: No, I'm fine. I'm fine. I'm fine.   
  •  RAYMOND:  You're okay? You let me know if you want to do that. What's your family doing between the time they charged him and the trial?  
  •  IRELAND BEAZLEY: Okay. Well, we just—let's see that happened. All of this happened in June. Yeah, and I don't think they even started having the hearings for the jury selection until January or maybe February. I can't remember exactly when. I don't know, we had a lot of community support because none of our friends and family could believe that Napoleon—their—our Napoleon could do something like this. 
  •  BEAZLEY: And it was just sort of our opinion that the Coleman boys were the ones that had done this and that Napoleon pretty soon was going to be released from jail. It was just the talk of the town to tell you the truth. But me myself—me and my wife, we just continued to work. And we put it in the good Lord's hands. And we just continued to work. I did—I had already—I had took a week off from work when Napoleon first got arrested. But I went back to work. Went back to the grindstone. 
  •  BEAZLEY: And just lived my life. But it was something that we had to talk about, me and my wife. It was tough on us. It really was. It was tough on us. We comforted each other, consoled each other, and just got through it. A lot of crying. And we said a lot of what-ifs, what-ifs, what-ifs, what-ifs. And we took the blame for a lot of it. But we realized that we had to go on. It had happened and now we had to do whatever—we had to continue even though it had happened we had to continue. 
  •  BEAZLEY: We couldn't just stop living our lives, you know? So that's exactly what we did. We continued working and living our lives. Maria stayed in school, and then we had Jamaal. He was ten years old and he was old enough to know what was going on. But we knew we had to protect him. We knew we had to keep him motivated and keep him going. So we had a lot of responsibility on our shoulders. And then also we knew some—we had to give Napoleon support. We did not feel like he should have been there.  
  •  BEAZLEY: Well, we didn't want him up there moping around. So every day that that little old jail was open, they were going to have visitation. I was very fortunate I was working swing shift but at this same time they put me on a straight day shift, so I was able to—everyday I'd get off work at two o'clock and by three, three-thirty I'd be in town and we'd visit Napoleon for two hours, everyday. And I did that as much as I possibly could. 
  •  BEAZLEY: And also that was—they would let him make phone calls, so we got a couple of phone calls from Napoleon back in those days, as long as he was in state jail. You know it stopped after he was in prison. But that's what we did. We kept right on chuggin'. Kept right on going and visit him. Tried to keep him encouraged. Tried to get him to keep his head up. And we were hoping that it was gonna be—we were hoping something was gonna come up. That was gonna say that he didn't do this. But didn't happen like that. 
  •  BEAZLEY: Didn't happen like that. I think—I'm not for sure—I believe in October or September, somewhere along there, they had already had the other two boys' case in federal court. Which, as you very well know, they elected from day one not to charge Napoleon with any federal crime. They decided, "Okay we just gonna turn him over to the state ' cause we want to give him the death penalty." Which if he'd got federal crime, he would have stayed in federal prison until he did all of that time. They politely dropped all of those charges.   
  •  BEAZLEY: And that was unfair. That was just unfair. Well I don't know what to say about that. But anyway— but they had those two boys' trials. Each one of them that had gotten lengthy sentences. So we were hoping—this just me personally—I was hoping, hopefully, that's basically what's—that's the same thing that was gonna happen in the state, that they would get lengthy sentences and then he'd just have to sit in jail for thirty, forty years. 
  •  BEAZLEY: I knew they were taking—were seeking the death penalty, but I just couldn't conceive it in my mind that they would give it to a seventeen year-old. First time he'd ever been in trouble and stuff like that. And his reputation that he did have in high school, like I said, and all of those different types of things, I just didn't feel like the jury would give him the death penalty, but I was mistaken.  
  •   RAYMOND: You were in the trial. You saw the jury. What—what do you— 
  •  IRELAND BEAZLEY: Be honest with you, I was kinda disappointed in the jury. I also saw some ladies on there that I wouldn't of—I guess good thing I'm not a lawyer, but I never would have thought they would have voted for the death penalty for a kid. And it really just shocked the devil out of me. But you know when you look back on it and you think about all the things that were fed through their mind. 
  •  BEAZLEY: All the negative stuff that they were given to make a decision, I think it's one of the reasons that caused it. I think the justice system should look into that and find a way to not let a lot of prosecutors who just sit up there and make all those negative statements about crime—talking about it's a deterrent from crime and it ain't. And they don't let them say the type of things that they let 'em say. 
  •  BEAZLEY: And the fear factors that they use, it just shouldn't be done. I think the justice system should be taking a hard look at the way they allow prosecutors—especially on death penalty cases. I think that's what helped with Ms. Yates. At least that time they did look at some of the statements that the prosecutors made falsely, which gave her the opportunity to get a decent sentence out of that. But anyway. 
  •  RAYMOND: Well, you've talked about this—all of the negative stuff that people said about Napoleon and I'm looking at you—behind you, and we were all attracted to these photographs.  I'm wondering if you could talk about who's in these pictures and your family. 
  •  IRELAND BEAZLEY: Well, this is—I think this is Napoleon in junior high, junior high, yeah. He's on the track team. He was a pretty speedy little old fellow. You remember I was telling you about how he'd be chasing the baseball. He ran—oh that's right, yeah, he was on the—he went to state on the four quarter relay.  
  •   RAYMOND: Oh, I didn't know that. 
  •  IRELAND BEAZLEY: He was the first leg I believe. Yeah, he was the first leg course. That's where his old man started off—me. I was fast, too. He got that part after me.  
  •   RAYMOND: Can you show—maybe hold that up? 
  •  IRELAND BEAZLEY: Oh yeah. This is his junior, I believe he was in junior high.  
  •  RAYMOND: What's he holding there? 
  •  IRELAND BEAZLEY: That's the baton, the relay baton. And this is him, his graduating picture. He was a senior that year. Handsome young man, just like his daddy. 
  •  RAYMOND: Can you show that to Gabe? 
  •  IRELAND BEAZLEY: Oh, Okay. 
  •  RAYMOND: Thanks. 
  •  RAYMOND: So when did he grow the mustache? 
  •  IRELAND BEAZLEY: He did that in high school. They weren't quite as strict I guess. I don't know. 
  •  RAYMOND: Who else is back there? 
  •  IRELAND BEAZLEY: This is just my wife's nieces here. That's their brother. This picture here is my wife, my mother-in-law, and this is my sister-in-law, and this is my father-in-law. 
  •  RAYMOND: Father-in-law? 
  •  IRELAND BEAZLEY: (affirms) 
  •  RAYMOND: Okay, so that's Rena and her sister-in-law? 
  •  IRELAND BEAZLEY: That's Rena, her mother, that's her daddy, and this is her sister. 
  •  RAYMOND: And where—are they also from Grapeland? 
  •  IRELAND BEAZLEY: No ma'am. My mother-in-law stays in Crockett but they're not together. He stays in Alto and she stays in Crockett. That's my grandson here. I guess we have to show you him. That's him. Yup, that's my grandson. That's little Ethan when he was a baby. He's a big boy now.  
  •  RAYMOND: How old is he now? 
  •  IRELAND BEAZLEY: He's ten-years-old now. He's a big boy. And this is all my wife's sisters. All of them.  
  •  RAYMOND: Can you say their names? 
  •  IRELAND BEAZLEY: This is Shawn. This is Cherry. This is Dorothy. And this is Janie. And of course this is Rena. Rena right here.  
  •  BEAZLEY: Up there on top you have—this is me, and of course my wife, and this is my dog, Chris. He died in I think it was 2004. Made me cry like a baby.  But this picture was taken for an interview with a lady up in the—for the Jacksonville paper. She took a lot of pictures. But this picture winded up being pasted all over east Texas cause this is the picture that she put on the front page of the newspaper (laughs).  
  •  RAYMOND: And what—and you liked it? 
  •  RAYMOND: Yeah it's nice. 
  •  IRELAND BEAZLEY: Yeah (laughs). Yeah, well but look its got the shadow of her holding the camera in it. But it was all over east Texas. And of course this is Napoleon. I think he was at this is the first—when we do visitations, this was one of the first pictures that we took. This was taken while he was at Ellis. That was when he first got in there. 
  •  RAYMOND: How old is he in that picture? He looks a lot—  
  •  IRELAND BEAZLEY: He could be—he should be no more than eighteen cause it was in June of 2005 when he went in there. Yeah, well he may be nineteen. No he would be turning nineteen that August in 2005. So he was eighteen and he was—when he was—when they put him up there in Tyler, they gonna make him shave. He had never shaved before. So they gave him a razor and his face just broke out all the way out.   
  •  BEAZLEY: That was the reason behind the beard cause they tried to, I suppose, to clean him up for court. And they gave him a razor and made him shave and it just broke his face out. All during court his face was all red. And I think when he got back in there they gave him a shaving pass while he was in prison so he didn't have to shave. So that's why he started growing a beard (rubs chin). And I think he must have clipper shaved after that 'cause I know he got rid of it. I think he wore a little go-tee and he had it all trimmed real nice, but all this (rubs chin) wasn't up under there.  
  •  RAYMOND:  Did you get all the pictures over there? A beautiful family.   
  •  IRELAND BEAZLEY:  This is again, Ethan, his dad, and my daughter, Maria, here. That's them. But I have a wonderful family, a wonderful family. I thank God, just like I thank God for Napoleon. I was so proud of him. You know, I think, well I know in there, we talked more since he was in prison. We were fortunate. We were blessed to have that relationship with him. We had some great visits where we talked about just about everything, philosophy. And we had arguments sometimes about different things. It was very well. 
  •  BEAZLEY: I got to know him pretty well over the course of those eight years that he was in prison. We got the two-hour—we visited him every Saturday. We got a two-hour visit. And we took advantage of it. And we kept him abreast of everything, all the family, especially the kids. Each of them—at the time we could take—if you was under sixteen I believe, you could take up to four kids with you. 
  •  BEAZLEY: So all his nieces and nephews, we all got a chance to take them to visit with him in prison. And so the whole family kept abreast of him. My sister-in-law, Dorothy, went to visit him several times. My sister went to visit him several times. I have sisters in California, and they came out to visit him several times. 
  •  BEAZLEY: So we definitely—we tried to keep it—we made it—tried to make it feel like he was just a part of the family with one exception: he was in jail. That's the way we tried to make it feel like. None of the family condemned him. We all showed him love and support, especially me and my wife. We never, never, never, never once wavered from our love for him, still do.   
  •  SOLIS:  Four minutes.  
  •  RAYMOND:  Four minutes of tape. You say you have a lot of—let me ask you this: If somebody was to listen to you, what would you want them to know? What are some of the most important things you would want people to know?   
  •  IRELAND BEAZLEY:  Geez—  
  •  RAYMOND: That's a big question.  
  •  IRELAND BEAZLEY:  Yeah, it is. I don't think you can do it in four minutes. I couldn't think of an answer in four minutes. I don't know. What would I want them to remember?  
  •  RAYMOND: Know. Remember.  
  •  IRELAND BEAZLEY:  Most important thing to me right now that I would like the world to know is that the death penalty is wrong. I'm serious. I think it's morally wrong.  I've heard a lot of different viewpoints, and I'm open-minded and I see where some people do some terrible things and you want to give them the harshest punishment that you can give them. But I think when you— death, you're stepping over your lines. That's just my opinion. And that's important to me. I'd like for the world to know that. I really would.  
  •  RAYMOND: Thank you. We're going to need—I'm going to want to ask you some more questions now but we're going to need to take a break now. Thank you. But if you don't want you to you don't need to. Thank you. 
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Title:Interview with Ireland Beazley
Abstract:Ireland Gene Beazley is the father of Napoleon Beazley, who was seventeen years when he fatally shot John Luttig in Tyler, Smith County. The death sentence and execution of Napoleon Beazley sparked international protest; within three years of the incident the U.S. Supreme Court banned the practice of executing people who were juveniles at the time of their crimes. In Video 1, Beazley describes family life up until the time Napoleon was arrested; the apparent determination of officials to execute Napoleon before he was even arraigned; the trial and legal proceedings; and the effects of the tragedy on the family. In Video 2, Beazley additionally describes how faith, prayer, and the support of Black churches, family, and community enabled him to get through these tragic events. This interview took place on April 3, 2008. 
Sequence:1 of 2
  • Ireland BeazleyRole: Narrator
  • Texas After Violence ProjectRole: Collaborator
  • Virginia Marie RaymondRole: Interviewer
  • Gabriel Daniel SolisRole: Videographer
  • Gabriel Daniel SolisRole: Transcriber
  • Tamica JonesRole: Transcriber
  • Sabina Hinz-FoleyRole: Transcriber
  • Susanne MasonRole: Transcriber
  • Mark EvansRole: Transcriber
  • Kimberly Ambrosini-BaconRole: Proofreader
Date Created:2008/04/03
Geographic Focus:North America--United States--Texas
Geographic Base:North America--United States--Texas--Austin
Type of Resource:Moving image
    This electronic resource is made available by the University of Texas Libraries solely for the purposes of research, teaching and private study. All intellectual property rights are retained by the legal copyright holders. The University of Texas does not hold the copyright to the content of this file. Formal permission to reuse or republish this content must be obtained from the copyright holder.




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