[Deathpenalty]death penalty news --- KENTUCKY; TEXAS
j_sommer at gmx.net
Mon Apr 18 11:46:37 CDT 2005
death penalty news
April 18, 2005
Ruling stirs debate on what to do with young killers
Before he raped and strangled a 9-year-old Philadelphia girl, Kevin Hughes
had been a tyrannized child who needed help.
His drug-addicted and mentally ill mother used him as a sexual toy when she
was around; she left him to wander the streets begging for food when she
The many men in his mother's life also sexually abused Kevin and taught him
that women were to be subjugated. Some of them beat him savagely while his
mother stood by watching. Sometimes she laughed.
After Kevin, who was 16 at the time, killed Rochelle Graham and burned her
body in an abandoned house, the community's thirst for vengeance
overwhelmed any inclination to examine his childhood or to figure out how
he'd become such a monster. There was no discussion of how the criminal
justice system might punish him and address his pathologies. So, in a
matter of months, he was tried, convicted and sent to death row.
That was in 1981. Last month, in a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court ruled
that Kevin and 71 other juvenile killers can't be executed, opening the
door to a debate about the nature of juvenile justice.
If execution is improper, experts say, why is life without parole, the
penalty these 72 killers now face, any more appropriate? If, as the court
said, juvenile offenders are fundamentally different from adults, why
shouldn't these young murderers be offered a promise of rehabilitative
"The whole idea of juvenile justice revolves around the idea that we're
dealing with fixable people, kids who are still developing, but the death
penalty made that idea irrelevant," said Stephen Harper, a public defender
who teaches juvenile justice at the University of Miami. "Now that
execution is out of the picture, I think there are other issues we can
confront. Can adolescent killers be rehabilitated? And should that be the
Charles Hobson, an attorney with the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, a
victims advocate in California, said there's more to it than that.
"Punishment limits crime with an appropriate expenditure of resources, and
people understand that," he said. "Other things may help offenders, but
they won't necessarily keep the public safer, and that's a problem."
The juvenile justice system in this country evolved around the notion of
rehabilitation and treatment, but a surge in adolescent crime during the
early 1980s inspired a crackdown. States began narrowing the age range for
offenders who'd be considered juveniles, virtually eliminating older teens
from the category. Judges were stripped of much of the discretion they had
of treating juveniles differently, with many states adopting mandatory
Young killers have almost universally been kicked up into the adult system,
making it a foregone conclusion that the paths of their lives would be set
solely by their crimes and without any consideration for the circumstances
that surrounded their childhoods.
The death penalty was never common in this country for juveniles, and by
the time the high court eliminated it last month, most states had already
turned their backs on it. But juvenile justice experts say it remained a
distraction from a discussion of broader options for young killers. The
argument, they say, was too often about whether life without parole or
death was appropriate. Treatment wasn't considered.
"It was definitely in the way," said Marsha Levick, the legal director of
the Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center, referring to the death penalty.
"Now that you can't execute juveniles anymore, it may give us a real opening."
That prospect isn't just because of the court's decision in Roper vs.
Simmons. It's also because of the reasoning Justice Anthony Kennedy used in
writing the majority opinion in the 5-4 case.
Quoting from groundbreaking studies of the adolescent brain, Kennedy
declared that juveniles lacked the maturity and sense of responsibility
that would allow them to be considered "the most deserving of execution,"
which is the court's standard for capital punishment.
In Kentucky, the number of juvenile offenders who would be affected by the
decision is not known, but Fayette could have the most with eight.
(source: Lexington Herald-Leader)
Rudolph deserving of execution
So the government that Eric Rudolph loathes will be his custodian for the
rest of his life.
Some people think that bit of irony will rankle the bomber-who took on his
country because of what he considers its implicit support of abortion on
demand and homosexuality-to have to be under the thumb of uniformed guards
at a federal prison. Some even say that for Rudolph, life imprisonment is
worse than a death sentence.
No, it's not. The coward will live on our dime, probably for decades.
Make no mistake, Rudolph is a coward who took a stand but ultimately was
unwilling to be martyred for it.
I'm not saying he should die at the hands of the government he tried to
tweak. He says he only meant to kill people who were active participants in
allowing abortions to occur and homosexuality to come out of the closet.
Bystanders, such as the woman killed in Olympic park bombing and customers
of a lesbian bar bombing, were not his intended targets. He wanted law
enforcement or government representatives or abortion doctors dead. The
others were collateral damage.
If anyone is a candidate for capital punishment, it is Rudolph. He is the
kind of terrorist the federal death penalty law was written for. He is not
remorseful that his war on government resulted inadvertently in civilian
If, by some miracle, he would be freed tomorrow, he would be promoting his
killing agenda. That he had been caught before would not deter him from
repeating his deadly conduct.
God has ordained Rudolph to be judge and jury of those who represent the
rights he opposes, at least that's the way it is in Rudolph's mind. He is a
self-proclaimed soldier in the Army of God, willing to live and die for his
faith, or so it seemed until he copped a plea.
Then he became a God-fearer of another stripe, and that stripe is yellow.
Still, he dared to criticize people of faith who criticized him for killing
other people to stop them from killing people. He called them hypocrites.
He should think about his own position, and now he will have lots of time
to do just that.
That position is this: For a guy who justified his murderous behavior as
doing God's work, he seems in no hurry to meet his Maker, his Commander in
Chief, if you will.
That's probably because he wasn't just following orders. Fact is, he was
(source: Opinion, Texarkana Gazette)
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