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KARLA MASS: The week's most talked about books


In April, 1994, Napoleon Beazley, then 17, borrowed his mother's car and drove with two other youths to Tyler, Texas. Beazley's friend, Cedric Coleman, drove, and Cedric's younger brother, Donald, went with them ...

As the group approached Tyler for the second time, Beazley spotted a 1987 Mercedes Benz. Beazley followed the car until it pulled into the garage of a house. He then got out of his car and ran to the driver's side of the Mercedes. He fired one round from his .45, hitting John E. Luttig, 63, in the head ...

Beazley returned to Mr. Luttig, saw that he was still alive in the driver's seat, and fired again at his head at close range. Luttig died at the scene.

They were arrested more than 45 days later.

Beazley is one of many teen perpetrators portrayed in "No Choirboy: Murder, Violence, and Teenagers on Death Row" by Susan Kuklin. But his story ends differently from the others ... 25-five-year-old Beazley is executed by lethal injection on May 28, 2002, in Huntsville, Texas.

Roy Burgess, Jr. is 16 years old. He confesses to the murder of Kevin Gardner, and is sentenced to death row, but later given life without parole.

Nanon Williams is sentenced to death row at the age of 17. In March 2005, Williams is eligible to be immediately removed from death row, but four months later, he remains on death row.

Charles Bass has two female accomplices, ages 17 and 18, when he commits a cold-blooded murder. The victim's brother, Paul, believes the girls' sentences (18 years and 16 years) are too harsh.

"No Choirboy" targets teens and is a first-person testimonial of life in prison and on death row. Kuklin interviews prison inmates about the personal demons that led to their callous acts. Adolescents enter adult facilities as punishment for violent, life-altering crimes. But the author's ultimate goal is to shed light on capital punishment.

Teens, too young to vote, purchase cigarettes or beer, are indicted for murder and sentenced to life imprisonment or death. Kuklin stresses the importance of two questions in the appeals process: "Are you the sum total of your worst acts?" and "Are we able to determine, justly, what punishment people deserve for their worst act?"

"No Choirboy" provides a platform for contemplation and discussion. Its message will break your heart, make you angry or both.

Excerpt (edited) taken from David Carson entry, May 29, 2002, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Texas Attorney General's office, Associated Press, Houston Chronicle, Tyler Morning Telegraph.


"Power Source" is a smart, well-written curriculum that addresses anger, drugs, alcohol, childhood, friends, family, grief, loss, shame, disrespect, self-forgiveness, forgiving others and spirituality. And according to experts, it addresses the root of violence - a poor sense of self.

Written specifically for young men and women who are at risk for incarceration, this powerful manual is an easy and informative read. Real life stories depict self-hatred, aggression, emptiness, abuse, neglect, remorse and more.

Authors Bethany Casarjian and Robin Casarjian attempt to empower youth by creating a valuable help tool - a book about choices. The right ones. They have worked with youth in jails, prisons, residential treatment centers and foster care. Bethany has a Ph.D. in School Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University. She is the clinical director of The National Emotional Literacy Project for Youth-at-Risk. Robin, M.A., is founder and director of The Lionheart Foundation.

Available in both English and Spanish, "Power Source," promotes behavior that is preventative and rehabilitative. High-risk behaviors are examined. Emotional wounds are addressed. This book teaches coping strategies, how to rise to new challenges and how to survive them.

Many of you might look at where you are right now - in trouble with the law, secure detention centers, residential treatment centers, or jails - and wonder: "Man, how did I get to a place like this?"

We don't know exactly where you come from or exactly what you went through. But we do know that all of you are survivors. And most survivors have one thing in common. Most have the feeling that they never had a real childhood.

Adults, armed with this manual, can achieve a higher level of understanding and facilities can perform a higher level of intervention. What is the message? It's encouraging, not preachy. It's all about choices. No matter where you came from or where you're headed, you have the power to define your destiny.

The National Emotional Literacy Project for Youth-at-Risk is sponsored by The Lionheart Foundation, a nonprofit organization with a mission to give incarcerated men, women and youth valuable resources to improve their lives. For additional information, go to


No Choirboy: Murder, Violence, and Teenagers on Death Row



Susan Kuklin


Henry Holt

Publication Date:

August 2008

Listen to an excerpt from No Choirboys

Power Source: Taking Charge of Your Life



Bethany Casarjian, Robin Casarjian


Lionheart Press

Publication Date:

January 2003

Real Girls, Real-Life Stories: True Crime


Author: Seventeen Magazine

Publisher: Hearst Books

Publication Date: June 2007

Letters to a Young Brother: Manifest Your Destiny


Author: Hill Harper

Publisher: Gotham Books

Publication Date: April 2007

"The Week's Most Talked About Book(s)" is a weekly book review and literary criticism column that publishes every Friday. Selected titles are based on popularity, public opinion, research and observation. Questions, comments and suggestions should be sent to book lover and columnist Karla Mass at She is a content producer for McClatchy Interactive.
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