News Release

NACDL President cites 1992 treaty Texas execution of juvenile violates international law, says leader of criminal defense bar

Washington, DC (August 15, 2001) -- Texas' execution of Napoleon Beazley, currently set for 6 p.m. Wednesday, will violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a 1992 treaty ratified by the United States Senate and signed by President George Bush, says Irwin Schwartz, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

Schwartz, a Seattle criminal defense lawyer, said that although the United States raised formal reservations to the portion of the treaty prohibiting execution of persons under 18 years old at the time of the crime, the treaty is still binding. "President Bush knew what he signed, and the treaty says we would join with virtually the entire industrialized world in admitting that the execution of persons who committed crimes as juveniles is wrong," said Schwartz.

Cynthia Orr, a member of NACDL's board of directors who has litigated the treaty issue, said Texas courts have ignored the argument that the treaty is binding. "They say that a treaty ratified by Congress and signed by the President isn't a law in Texas," she said. "Go figure."

Schwartz expressed disappointment that the U. S. Supreme Court split evenly on whether to hear Beazley's appeal after three justices disqualified themselves because they knew the victim's son, a federal judge. "Our refusal to adhere to international standards and consensus on the death penalty continues to handicap us in influencing other human rights issues, " he said. "One more vote would have allowed the Supreme Court to apply the rule of international law."

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The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.