ON MAY 28, 2002, NAPOLEON BEAZLEY sat in a windowless cell in the Death House, inside the Walls Unit in Huntsville, and waited for six o’clock to arrive. Hunched over a sheet of lined loose-leaf paper, the 25-year-old composed his last statement, to be read that evening, after his execution. He would not say any final words; contrition expressed from the gurney, he believed, would be viewed just as cynically as an eleventh-hour jailhouse conversion. Days earlier he had bid his family good-bye so that he might maintain his composure during these final hours. He appeared calm, except that his right foot kept twitching. Only later, when he was strapped to the gurney, would he look afraid.
A light rain had begun to fall outside, where a knot of protesters stood by the police barricades, some holding up handmade placards whose ink had smeared. “In half an hour, the State of Texas will commit murder!” a graying woman named Gloria Rubac was shouting into a microphone. “The murder is premeditated. The weapon of choice is poison. And every one of you yahoos with your cowboy hats”—she eyed a row of uniformed guards, some of whom stiffened under her gaze—”is going along with it.”
Behind the barricades, two dozen folding chairs had been placed under a shade tree for reporters, a setting that