[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----USA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Jul 27 17:54:20 CDT 2004
Court should end juvenile executions
Christopher Simmons was 17 and should have just graduated from high school
at the time a Missouri jury sentenced him to death. A decade later, his
sentence is the subject of a U.S. Supreme Court case, scheduled for oral
arguments in the fall.
Justices would erase an outrage by abolishing the death penalty for people
who commit crimes as juveniles. Besides the United States, only China,
Pakistan, Iran and the Democratic Republic of the Congo permit executions
for offenses by 16- and 17-year-olds. In this country, 31 states,
including Kansas, have laws exempting juveniles from capital punishment.
The Missouri Supreme Court tried to move the state in the right direction
last year by ruling that the execution of juvenile offenders violated the
state constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. That ruling
relied on a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court decision that outlawed the execution
of offenders who are mentally retarded. The state judges contended that
the "national consensus" against executing people who are mentally
retarded also applied to juveniles.
Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon, never one to let the chance of an
execution slip away without a fight, appealed the state Supreme Court
decision. He said it was the legislature's job to decide legal ages for
the death penalty.
A broad coalition of religious, medical and psychiatric groups have filed
briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court appealing for a ban on executions for
crimes committed by juveniles. These groups presented compelling testimony
that juveniles have less capacity than adults to reason and consider
The court also received briefs from the European Union and dozens of
countries, including Canada and Mexico. They contended that the execution
of juveniles isolated the United States from the international community.
If his death sentence were revoked, Simmons would still spend the rest of
his life in prison for the heinous 1993 murder of Shirley Crook, 46. No
court ruling can right that enormous wrong. But capital punishment for
crimes committed by the young is another wrong - one that Supreme Court
justices can stop.
(source: Editorial, Kansas City Star)
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