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Supreme Court strikes down death penalty for juveniles

 
 
Reply Tue 1 Mar, 2005 11:33 am
In an opinion authored by Justice Kennedy, the Court wrote:
The differences between juvenile and adult offenders are too marked and well understood to risk allowing a youthful person to receive the death penalty despite insufficient culpability. An unacceptable likelihood exists that the brutality or cold-blooded nature of any particular crime would overpower mitigating arguments based on youth as a matter of course, even where the juvenile offender's objective immaturity, vulnerability, and lack of true depravity should require a sentence less severe than death. In some cases a defendant's youth may even be counted against him. In this very case, as we noted above, the prosecutor argued Simmons' youth was aggravating rather than mitigating. While this sort of overreaching could be corrected by a particular rule to ensure that the mitigating force of youth is not overlooked, that would not address our larger concerns.

The Court also took note of international trends away from the use of the death penalty on minors.

Court's full opinion [text, PDF]

Justice O'Connor's dissent

Justice Scalia's dissent joined by Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justice Thomas

Quote:
Supreme Court Ends Execution of Juvenile Murderers
Tue Mar 1, 2005


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A closely divided U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday abolished the death penalty for those who were under the age of 18 when they committed murder, a major victory for opponents of capital punishment.
By a 5-4 vote, the high court declared unconstitutional the juvenile death penalty, a decision that could affect about 70 death row inmates who face execution for crimes done when they were 16 or 17 years old.

The decision amounted to a significant change from the Supreme Court ruling 16 years ago when it held the execution of such juvenile offenders did not violate the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Opponents of capital punishment had argued that world opinion and a national consensus has now formed against the juvenile death penalty and said it should be struck down as unconstitutional, like the Supreme Court did in 2002 in barring executions of mentally retarded criminals.

In the court's majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy agreed and declared the U.S. Constitution forbids the imposition of the death penalty against offenders who were under the age of 18 when their crimes were committed.

"It is proper that we acknowledge the overwhelming weight of international opinion against the juvenile death penalty, resting in large part on the understanding that the instability and emotional imbalance of young people may often be a factor in the crime," he wrote in the 25-page opinion.

Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justices Sandra Day O'Connor, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented from the ruling.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 2 • Views: 4,038 • Replies: 21
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Lash
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Mar, 2005 11:39 am
A step in the right direction.
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Anonymous
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Mar, 2005 01:27 pm
Re: Walter Hinteler
I think that this is also a step in the right direction. I am no advocate of Capital Punishment, but think that the killing of juveniles is not justified, no matter what the case.

We just had a similar discussion in our High School Governemnt class. We had just finished reenacting a Supreme Court case (Thompson v. Oklahoma) similar to this. Here are a couple of cases that deal with this subject:

Thompson v. Oklahoma (1988): Thompson was tried and convicted for murdering somebody at age 15. They gave him the sentence of death. He appealed to the Supreme Court. It court ruled in favor of Thompson, stating that the killing of any person who committed a crime under the age of 16 and was given the death penalty was considered Cruel and Unusual (8th Amendment). The court also stated that Thompson's 14th Amendment rights (Fair treatement under the law) were violated due to his young age.

Wilkens v. Missouri (1989): A convicted murderer was sentenced to death for committing the murder at age 16. He, too, appealed to the Supreme Court, but upheld Thompson v. Missouri, restating that the death penalty was only considered Cruel and Unusual if the person in question was 15 or younger at the time of committing the crime.

It looks like the Supreme Court overturned these two rulings, now stating that the death penalty is considered Cruel and Unsual to any persons considered juveniles. I am behind the court on this.
0 Replies
 
Steve 41oo
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Mar, 2005 01:48 pm
Amazing, the United States of America no longer executes juveniles. I thought executing young people was one of the cardinal points of what it meant to be American.

still things change.

(does this apply to everyone regardless of race, sex, religion or sexual orientation?)
0 Replies
 
Anonymous
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Mar, 2005 02:09 pm
Steve (as 41oo) wrote:
(does this apply to everyone regardless of race, sex, religion or sexual orientation?)

I'd imagine so. Otherwise, it would violate the 14th Amendment (majorly; it would violate others minorly), which provides equal protection under the law to everyone.
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JPB
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Mar, 2005 02:17 pm
Personally, I don't like the government committing murder on my behalf, particularly juveniles, so I too see this as a step in the right direction. I am, however, sensitive to the costs of lifetime incarceration and the point that captital punishment prevents the possibility of a repeat offense. I guess that makes me a fence-sitter.

The individual originally told his 'partners' that he was going to do it because he was a juvenile and would therefore get away with it. I'm not sure how he defined that but it raises an interesting question. Did he get away with it?
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Anonymous
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Mar, 2005 02:42 pm
Re: J_B
J_B wrote:
The individual originally told his 'partners' that he was going to do it because he was a juvenile and would therefore get away with it. I'm not sure how he defined that but it raises an interesting question. Did he get away with it?

This is a common misconception that many people tried to argue in my Government class. Just because someone does not receive the death penalty does not mean that they get off scott free. It just means that they will not be executed. They will still serve jail time (if tried as an adult), or some similar punishment. Punishements are not divided into Capital Punishment and No Punishment, you know.
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JPB
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Mar, 2005 02:47 pm
I'm wondering what he meant by it, which we don't know, and how others feel about it. His sentence has been changed to 'Life in prison without the possibility of parole' so I don't think he got away with it any more than someone convicted of first degree murder in a state without capital punishment.
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cjhsa
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Mar, 2005 03:25 pm
So, what do you all propose the penalty for killing someone during the commitment of a criminal act, whether that act is in itself the murder or something else?

I think this gives a green light to the gang bangers to murder. This ruling scares me to death - it should you too. Where is the justice telling someone they can kill with basic impunity? What about the victim?

You people scare me.
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Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Mar, 2005 03:38 pm
Yes, killing of children is scary.
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Anonymous
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Mar, 2005 03:41 pm
cjhsa wrote:
So, what do you all propose the penalty for killing someone during the commitment of a criminal act, whether that act is in itself the murder or something else?

I think this gives a green light to the gang bangers to murder. This ruling scares me to death - it should you too. Where is the justice telling someone they can kill with basic impunity? What about the victim?

You people scare me.

Read my 3rd post in this thread. It explains how this is not a "green light" toward juvenile crime.
0 Replies
 
Linkat
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Mar, 2005 03:42 pm
Cjhsa – I honestly do not see how this would effect gang bangers. Do you really think they are actually thinking – jeepers there is no death penalty I think I will start killing now. These type of people will kill no matter what; the death penalty is not a deterrent. And as some one stated above, this does not mean that the murderer no matter what the age is not going to be punished. It does not mean that some one can kill with impunity. I think life in prison with no chance of parole is pretty severe.
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Mar, 2005 03:58 pm
Walter Hinteler wrote:
Yes, killing of children is scary.

It's not so bad. You get used to it after a while.

Oops, did I say that out loud?
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cjhsa
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Mar, 2005 05:31 pm
I think getting locked in a room with an angry and well armed victim's parent might be appropriate.
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nimh
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Mar, 2005 05:38 pm
The authors of the right-wing party VVD's new "Liberal Manifesto" here the past few weeks have launched a number of eye-catching proposals (such as a de facto elected prime minister, a flat tax and a doubling of the culture budget) that also included bringing back the death penalty for exceptional crimes, specifically terrorism. Opinion polls show that roughly half of the Dutch are not in principle against (though thats not the same as saying they're in favour).
0 Replies
 
cjhsa
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Mar, 2005 05:45 pm
Cruel and Unusual punishment were the words the lunatic left were using about making arab terrorists wear womens panties on their heads...
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edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Mar, 2005 06:38 pm
Life without parole removes the offender from society. So why the panic at not being able to kill them?
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realjohnboy
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Mar, 2005 06:47 pm
Good evening to yall, and welcome especially to oo Agent Kid to a2k.
It was a 5-4 decision in our Supreme Court, only 5-4, but I think that today was a big day for those folks who oppose capital punishment. Is the threat of execution a deterrent to committing a horrible crime? Not if the perpetrator is under 18, apparently. Or that's how we will treat him. But if he is over 18, we can, will, might execute.
Does this system make any sense?
If yall have the time, please read the opinions by the justices in today's decision.
0 Replies
 
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Wed 2 Mar, 2005 12:21 am
cjhsa wrote:
I think getting locked in a room with an angry and well armed victim's parent might be appropriate.


Yes, there are still some, who didn't escape the Dark Ages.
0 Replies
 
goodfielder
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Mar, 2005 12:13 am
I must admit to not having read the full decision, just a summary so I will stick to the main points.

While I can't support the death penalty I can understand those that advocate it. I don't oppose it on moral or ethical grounds either. I do believe that there are some people who should forfeit their lives if they commit particularly horrendous crimes and that society in that case is seeking retribution which it is entitled to do. For instance a few days ago in a city in my country (Australia) a crook chased and shot dead a security guard during a robbery. The guard had complied with the orders of the crooks as they committed the armed robbery (which was sensible, it's only money for crying out loud) but when he fled from them one of the crooks actually went after him. The security guard fell and the crook put the gun against his head and pulled the trigger. killing him instantly. That crook should forfeit his life for what he did, no problem.

Here comes my objection to the death penalty. How can we really be sure beyond any shadow of a doubt that the person in court charged with the crime actually did it? If there is a preponderance of evidence that indicates that the defendant is guilty then fine, chuck him in the slammer until he dies in there. Anyone who kills like that (assuming that they are legally sane) deserves to spend the rest of their life in prison. No chance of rehabilitation (I do approve of the idea of rehabilitation by the way) so leave him there and bury him inside the walls of the prison.

As for executing juveniles or not it's obvious that my objection means that I am against the execution of juveniles for the same reason as I am against executing adults.

Anyway I suppose at least now juveniles who can't legally drink alcohol can breath a sigh of relief that they won't be executed for murder either.
0 Replies
 
 

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