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Thomas H. BEAVERS Jr.





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Rape - Robbery
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: May 1, 1990
Date of arrest: 1 year after
Date of birth: 1971
Victim profile: Marguerite E. Lowery, 61
Method of murder: Suffocation with a pillow
Location: Hampton City, Virginia, USA
Status: Executed by lethal injection in Virginia on December 11, 1997

United States Court of Appeals
For the Fourth Circuit

opinion 97-4
clemency petition

Thomas H. Beavers, 26, was put to death by injection at the Greensville Correctional Center after the U.S. Supreme Court and Gov. George Allen refused to halt the execution. Beavers was pronounced dead at 9:07 p.m.

Beavers lifted his head and stared through a window into a room filled with witnesses as the first chemicals that would kill him were administered. He then began crying, asked for forgiveness and laid his head back down.

In a statement made by Beavers moments earlier, he told his family and friends he loved them. "God bless them. I'm sorry for what I did. God bless them all," he said.

Earlier Thursday, the high court voted 7-2, with justices John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissenting, to deny Beavers' request for a stay. Later, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist denied an emergency request from Beavers' lawyer, Mark Olive.

Beavers' appeal contended he has brain damage and suffered from an abusive childhood, and that the jury that convicted him was never told about his brain damage.

"Beavers does not claim innocence in his clemency petition," Allen said in a statement denying Beavers' request for clemency. "...I find nothing in the record or from other sources that would justify my intervention in the case."

The clemency request was based on Beavers' appeal that the mental health professionals who examined him prior to his trial did not do a competent job.

Allen said that five experts, including one hired by his defense team, examined Beavers prior to his trial and all found him competent to stand trial. That examination included an MRI for possible brain abnormalities.

"The experts who performed a much more recent MRI exam of Beavers found no substantial evidence that would support the claim now advanced by Beavers as a basis for clemency," Allen said.

Beavers lived in the Hampton neighborhood where Marguerite E. Lowery, a retired school cafeteria manager, was slain at her home.

According to court records, Mrs. Lowery, 61, was asleep when Beavers broke into her home in May 1990. She woke up when she heard a noise and went to investigate.

Beavers grabbed her, raped her and suffocated her with a pillow. He took jewelry from her dresser, vandalized the house, stole her car and set fire to it. He was arrested a year later in the rape of another neighbor who wasn't killed. Police found some of Mrs. Lowery's jewelry in his bedroom.

When Beavers was caught, he told authorities he'd probably rape again if set free. He was convicted in 1992.


Thomas Beavers

Thomas Beavers was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death for the May 1, 1990 killing of his neighbor Marguerite Lowery. Beavers was only 19 at the time of the crime and had no significant adult criminal record. 

Lowery was sleeping when Beavers broke in. Startled, she began to scream. In an effort to keep her quiet Beavers put a pillow over her face. He was also charged with raping the woman. Beavers said that when he removed the pillow, the woman took several gasps for air and then stopped moving all together.

He contended that he never intended to kill Mrs. Lowery. He said he was only trying to quiet her down. Beavers' attorneys pointed  to the testimony of the medical examiner himself. This witness testified that there were no signs of physical violence. He believed the witness died of cardiac arrhythmia, brought on by a preexisting heart condition. 

Beavers had no prior criminal record as an adult, and held that he never meant to kill his victim. Thus, he felt there was no evidence that he presented a future danger to society. It is on these grounds that Thomas contended the death penalty is cruel and excessive punishment in his case. The state of Virginia disagreed.


During his trial, Thomas Beavers received a court appointed psychiatrist who provided no sufficient evidence that Beavers had any mental health problems at the time of the crime. Beavers was subsequently found guilty of capital murder and sentenced to death. Upon further examination Beavers found that if his attorney had been competent during the trial he would have obtained mental health evidence which would possibly have altered the verdict.

However, the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit denied his appeal that his attorney acted incompetently. They conceded the "evidence of a defendant's mental impairment may diminish his blameworthiness for his crime" yet they also stated that his mental health may also "indicate that there is a possibility that he will be dangerous in the future." As a result of this fear, the Court upheld his death sentence.

Beavers also argues that his original trial should have resulted in a mistrial after some disputed and damaging evidence was given by a police officer who questioned Beavers after he was arrested. While on the stand, the police officer was handed some documents by the prosecutors to refresh his memory about a statement which Beavers allegedly made during questioning.

The police officer then testified that Beavers had admitted his guilt to him by stating, "he had no other choice but to do what he had done because [the victim] could identify him." Although the defense raised an objection which was sustained and resulted in the judge instructing the jury to strike the testimony from their minds, the damage had already been done. Although the defense requested a mistrial, the judge denied it and Beavers was convicted.

In their denial of his appeal the Court wrote, "Even if we were to conclude that Beavers is correct that the failure to grant a mistrial under these circumstances was an error of constitutional dimension, relief would not be appropriate." Therefore, despite an admittedly prejudiced jury the Court still recommended death. 

In addition to the aforementioned reasons, Beavers also appealed because the state trial court refused to allow one of his attorneys to withdraw from the case, it failed to remove a juror who stated she would vote for the death penalty if he was convicted, and it did not "guide adequately the discretion of jurors in considering mitigating evidence." 

On a personal note, Thomas grew up with a schizophrenic mother who, as a result of her illness, did not adequately provide for him and often abused him. 

Thomas Beavers was executed on December 11, 1997.



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