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Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Young murderers can’t be executed

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that criminals who were under the age of 18 when they committed their crimes cannot be executed for those crimes. The ruling throws out the death sentences of about 70 juvenile murderers in 19 states that had the provision to execute young murderers, and bars states from seeking to execute minors for future crimes.

The high court called the executions unconstitutionally cruel. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, cited the fact that most states don't allow the execution of juvenile killers and those that do use the penalty infrequently. The trend, he noted, was to abolish the practice.

"Our society views juveniles ... as categorically less culpable than the average criminal," Kennedy wrote.

So, let's review what this ruling means:

  • The death penalty is still legal in the United States for murder, but if the killer is fortunate enough to be under 18 when he or she willfully and deliberately kills a small child in cold blood, or sniper-kills multiple victims at gas stations in and around Northern Virginia, the killer can’t be executed.
  • A young male who turned 18 on January 5, 2004, say, decides to murder someone on January 4. He cannot be given the death penalty. But if he waits one day to kill his victim, he can be executed.
  • The Supreme Court said it is “unconstitutionally cruel” to put to death someone who kills when he is 17 years, 364 days old, but it is not unconstitutionally cruel to put to death a killer who is one day older when he kills.
  • But according to Justice Kennedy, because most states don’t allow the execution of juvenile killers, and because those states who do allow it don’t do it very often, we should simply dispense with the practice altogether.
  • The juvenile murderer is “less culpable” at 17/364 than the “average criminal,” but one day later presumably would not be less culpable.

Such bizarre and muddled thinking on the part of Supreme Court Justices is responsible for other similarly goofy decisions that plague us today.

12 comments:

Mr. Middle America said...

Once again, Michael Savage was ranting on this topic today... Good stuff!

JL Pagano said...

Here's some Loony Lefty Logic for you...

Ok, so maybe 18 IS a bad cut off point.

But where exactly DO you draw the line, sir?

16? So someone aged 15/364 is free to roam the streets on a killing spree?

Too old? How about 13?

If so, then let's watch out for hoards of rampaging 12/364'ers???

I'm being ridiculous?

Sorry, but it's just I thought that's what the Supreme Court was there to do; making rulings such as this one.

Defining the seemingly indefinable is just like takin out the trash; a dirty job, but someone's gotta do it.

Just think, my friend, it could have been MUCH worse.....they could have ruled capital punishment unconstitutional ALTOGETHER. Oh, the horror!!!

Buffalo said...

I'm against the death penalty. I don't see how it serves true justice and it certainly doesn't act as much of a deterent.

If they are to ban juvenile executions, as well they should, there has to be a cut off age. While I agree the difference of a day in age shouldn't make a difference between life and death, all laws have to be defined.

James Howard Shott said...

The point I was making was not about where the cutoff point is, it’s about the foolish and inappropriate rulings our Supreme Court often makes. That it would attempt to legislate from the bench that there was a cutoff point, and to arbitrarily pick a cutoff point, supports my contention. It is a silly premise to suggest that someone one day short of 18 years-old is somehow less culpable in a murder case than someone whose has just turned 18, yet that is what a majority of the court decided.

Furthermore, rather than citing court precedent, or some other legal authority (in fact the Court ignored its own precedent in making this ruling), the majority opinion cites the fact that most states don’t execute juveniles and those that do don’t do it often as a reason to issue a legal opinion.

It is the job of Congress to make decisions such as for what crimes execution will be possible, and under what circumstances, and so long as the U.S. Constitution supports the laws Congress passes, the Supreme Court has no role.

So, the Court made two mistakes: 1) It entered inappropriately into this case. It should have refused to hear it. And 2) it ruled using suspect criteria.

But I’ll play along with your angle. If it were up to me to determine at what point someone is too young or too immature to be executed, I would tie that to whether the person had the capacity to know that taking an innocent life is wrong. I believe that the vast majority of people reach that point well before age 18, and I further believe there is no exact chronological point in human development where that occurs. It’s earlier for some than for others. Therefore, some sort of psychologically based interview/examination/test, or series of interviews/examinations/tests would be required to make that determination.

Vitriola said...

I think the easiest thing, would be to get rid of capital punishment altogether then there are no lines to be blurred.

Personally, I'm disgusted by the idea of capital punishment altoether. It makes me nauseous. But given that it does exist, I don't think that kids who aren't allowed to drink / have sex / get a mortgage yet should also be liable for what is an adult punishment.

I think it's a poor state of affairs to think that people would expect a teenager to be obedient to, and surrender responsibility to their parents in many aspects of the law, yet also expect them to take the fullest responsibility for themselves in the face of a capital crime just because it's a capital crime.

Like I said, easier just to abolish the practice, IMO.

Mr. Middle America said...

I personally see no problem in terminating the Ted Bundy's of the world.

Jeff Dahmer...

We really do not need those types of personalities in our gene pool...

Unless, of course, if one of the kids that they killed were your own.

Not trying to be a weirdo here, but if a person of that nature killed my son.... anything less than execution would NOT be acceptable.

Except that I take it to another high... I would want to kill the freak myself.

mark said...

I agree with the general trend of comments on here; I'm strongly against capital punishment for various reasons (the major one being that I feel it's totally abhorrent and has no place in a modern, democratic society).

Those states that do execute youths are not only a minority in the US, but also a minority in the world. The US is one of only a handful of countries that (until this ruling) still used the death penalty on those under 18. The other countries in this little group are those such as Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Iran - hardly the greates bunch of countries to be grouped together with. There has to be a cut-off point somewhere, just like there is with drinking, driving, smoking, sex, voting, paying tax, serving in the army and numerous other things.

If someone deliberately and consciously killed a son of mine (or anyone else's, for that matter), I would want them to spend a substantial part of the rest of their life having to contemplate what they'd done. To simply let them part the world with no remorse and avoid the decades in a dark cell wouldn't be good enough for me.

But again, like most other people who've already commented I'm totally against the death penalty.

Remember: an eye for an eye makes everyone blind.

Mr. Middle America said...

"There has to be a cut-off point somewhere, just like there is with drinking, driving, smoking, sex, voting, paying tax, serving in the army and numerous other things."

No, there does not have to be a cut-off. It should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Capital murder and buying alcohol are quite different.

"If someone deliberately and consciously killed a son of mine (or anyone else's, for that matter), I would want them to spend a substantial part of the rest of their life having to contemplate what they'd done."

Definitely NOT good enough for me. I would want to ensure that this person (if proven beyond any reasonable doubt; DNA for example) has absolutely NO CHANCE of one day walking the streets due to whatever future events may transpire.

I have had real-life experience with this... a close friend of mine had his son kidnapped and murdered. I knew thiws kid. It is a personal thing for me. You are talking armchair philosophy. I am talking real-world.

"Remember: an eye for an eye makes everyone blind."

Cute, indeed... If you are talking about something as trivial as someone's dog pooping in your yard.

But some sick idiot using your deceased daughter as a sex toy... or eating your son's head... arises to a whole new game.

"But again, like most other people who've already commented I'm totally against the death penalty."

Most other people? Around 70 % of the American people support the Death Penalty (that statistic is from the ACLU)...

By the way, Mark, if you are going to attack someone's stand, attack, don't use condescension! It doesn't work too well for you!

JL Pagano said...

So basically what you are saying is that only people who's lives have been touched by a crime can have a say in how it's dealt with? Now THAT's condescending!

Thank you for pointing me to the ACLU website; although I was at a loss to see where your 70% figure was displayed, I learned all about the views and opinions the other "30%" have AGAINST the death penalty, and also how badly skewed the figures are about those on death row in relation to the poor and minority groups. Not a lot of rich white people waiting to get fried it seems! They must all be angels!!!

It's a good resource, I'd recommend it to anybody! www.aclu.org

Mr. Middle America said...

The ACLU webpage is an excellent resource, I quote it constantly on my website... A Liberal Blog for all intentions! Visit it, your perceptions may be challenged!

http://www.mrmiddleamerica.com

And, yes, I am saying that people touched by crime should have the most immediate input... It would be quite naive for it to be any other way.

There is such a thing as reality. Too much Liberal or Conservative indoctrination makes you short-sighted.

And, please do not play the "race card" in the death penalty debate. Review your statisitics before you throw up the Leftist arguements...

There is nothing wrong with being progressive... in most respects I am progressive. But, I have a mind and think for myself, not just spend my time listening to what the MSM and their bleeding hearts think of an issue.

So, yes, those impacted by crime should have a tremendous amont of influence, there is a SLIGHT misrepresentation of minorities on death row, however, the majority (like 80%) of those that have been executed have been caucasian...

mark said...

No, there does not have to be a cut-off. It should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.OK, so by that argument why don't you allow all minors to drink, drive, smoke and have sex at whatever age their parents, (or a judge) allow? I can't see how it would be worse to allow someone to buy alcohol than to be executed. Or are people not mature enough at 18 to drink alcohol (yet they are mature enough to be executed)?

It wasn't my intention to be condescending so if you interpreted it that way then I apologise. But come on, let's not start the "your opinion is narrow minded" argument.

"But again, like most other people who've already commented I'm totally against the death penalty."Most other people? In that context, yes most other people who have commented are against the death penalty.

Again as I said (under the 'eye for an eye' analogy), retribution isn't a sufficient argument for me. In the UK, we don't have the death penalty, and yet really bad murderers (the sort that you have talked about - child rape and murder) will be locked up for the rest of their lives. They won't be able to get back on the streets ever again. (Examples: Myra Hindley, the Wests, Yorkshire Ripper). So I don't think the "protection" line of thought really works. (Eating your son's head? Has that ever happened? Is that even possible?)

I was interested in your argument about DNA testing. Would you change the law from it is at present to a requirement to conclusively prove by DNA that they DID do it? There is however even there a problem in that DNA gives you only a limited picture. Of course in rape DNA is conclusive, but in murder, it only tells you that someone was there (as opposed to the actual cicumstances).

It's not a matter of the numbers of people executed, it's the percentages. A vastly disproportionate number of people executed are poor and from ethnic minorities.

One final question: how much influence in the debate do you think that those who are innocent but were almost executed, or equally the families of those who have subsequently been found innocent, should have?

Mr. Middle America said...

"I can't see how it would be worse to allow someone to buy alcohol than to be executed."

I would not tell anyone that if I were you! I would keep that one to myself... I mean, are you just trying to be cool? Or do you really believe that! If you are serious, you and I do not need to be debating anything... because if you cannot specifically delienate a moral difference between those two... *looks around... hmmmmmmm....

""But again, like most other people who've already commented I'm totally against the death penalty."Most other people? I that context, yes most other people who have commented are against the death penalty."

You are talking specifically about those that have commented on this blog??? *looks around* THAT's TWO or THREE PEOPLE!!! That's hardly a random sample of the country's sentiment!

"So I don't think the "protection" line of thought really works."

You must not be familar with the US legal system... There is a case now... A guy committed horrendous murders. Okay? He gets to prison, supposedly for life, and starts writing poetry... Okay? A group of wackos have no decided that he is rehabilitated... *looks around* But, yet, the families of his VICTIMS do not feel so... We shall see who wins out.

(Eating your son's head? Has that ever happened? Is that even possible?)"

My friend, this has occurred on SEVERAL OCASSIONS, in the US and the UK! The most infamous is Jeff Dahmer! He kept bits and pieces of his victims around for months... eating, having sex with, freezing, thawing his victims... circle.

Do you have kids? Surely to all that is good... if you have kids... and someone did something like this you would want their existence taken away from them. If not, you are not of the same gene pool as I am!

And, of course, my family is originally from the UK.

"Would you change the law from it is at present to a requirement to conclusively prove by DNA that they DID do it? There is however even there a problem in that DNA gives you only a limited picture."

I am not a Black and White type guy. I understand that there is such a thing as Black and White... True! But most things in life are not that secure! Most of the things you experience in life will not be black or white, but some shade of gray!

But, let me say this... I am a man of science. We, as a group, are making huge strides in forensic sciences. In more sophisticated departments (around the world)... we are beginning to "x-ray" (for a lack of better words) the crime scenes we encounter and are reasonably good at finding miniscuke items that can lead to other types of clues (good 'ole admissions of guilt, etc).

But, with the DNA thing, though... It will not be long... before there are machines that can literally sniff out an area and find who was there... and who wasn't there...

My argument is this... There will eventually be a time when guilt or innocence will be more and more and more objective. And, with that, conclusive! If we abandon options available to us, in dealing with those that have commit horrendous crimes... We will only be hurting ourselves?

Let me ask you this... The Nazis that were executed for their roles in the activities that occurred in Germany and other places?? Did they deserve the death penalty? Would you have wnated the people that were behind a lot of those things to have access to power... the access to your family??

I hope your answer is no!

Life is not black and white. There is a helluva lot of gray in there!


"It's not a matter of the numbers of people executed, it's the percentages. A vastly disproportionate number of people executed are poor and from ethnic minorities."

You are half-right. THEY are NOT ethnic minorities... That's just not true. You need to look that one up again!

But, most are indeed poor... BUT NOT ALL! Same way with SOCIETY in general! Most are "poor," but sopme are not.

Rich People, and I do not know how you are defining that... I am saying rich means "being independently wealthy," are a VERY SLIM part of society! So, what I am saying is... in the United States, the Rich are 1-5%, while ethnic minorities (I am lumping everyone that is not typically known as caucasian into that group) are 50% or better of the population!

The demographics of the US has changed dramatically since 1990!

One final point on this... most habitual criminals do end up poor. So, I mean, really, that argument is a little thin on substance!

"One final question: how much influence in the debate do you think that those who are innocent but were almost executed, or equally the families of those who have subsequently been found innocent, should have?"

I think they should be DAMN THANKFUL that they were not executed!

But, let me say this... I have had university level criminal justice courses... these are taught by VERY LIBERAL professors, I can assure you... and the consensus is that MOST PEOPLE that have convicted of a death penalty are habitual offenders... THE CHANCES of YOU GETTING A DEATH SENETENCE ARE SLIM if you have not had a history of being CONVICTED of other violent felonies.

That's a precursor of being in this group (in most cases)... This is not your first merry-go-round ride in the justice system if you are on death row!!

And, I can assure you this... the risks are miniscule... the propaganda exhibited by the opposite of my argument is unbelievable to me.

Rest assured I have not always supported the death penalty. Sure not when I was in university and graduate school, where I was habitually exposed to what James may refer to as "the looney left."

But, one thing I did learn was to measure the evidence that is there... against the societal responsibility of tending to criminals, and, hey, I support the death penalty.

Not for everything. Don't get me wrong. If your dog poops in my yard... well, that crime does not arise to the level of death peanlty. But... if you deliberately plan and kill someone, at least to me, you should have your existence pulled. You do not belong among us.

People have to decide on their own what they believe... But, to me, there are NO if ands and buts about it!