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.