March 03, 2005

Juvenile Death Penalty

Recently the Supreme Court heard a case in which the Missouri Supreme Court would not allow a ‘juvenile’ or rather, a juvenile at the time of the crime (Christopher Simmons) to be executed. Ironically, the Supreme Court had already ruled on this matter: “The court's 5-4 ruling reversed a 1989 decision allowing capital punishment for killers who were 16 or 17 at the time of their crimes.” So Missouri Supreme Court defied the Supreme Court’s prior ruling, and the Supreme Court ended up reversing itself!

Check out this page replete with baby pictures (funny how happy he looks in them,) and details of how ‘horrible’ Simmons life was, as if that’s some kind of excuse.

What did it for me was this however, as see in the Baltimore Sun piece on the matter:

Simmons, who was 17 in September 1993 when he broke into the home of Shirley Crook, robbed her, wrapped her head and hands in duct tape and pushed her from a railroad bridge into a river. Simmons confessed to the killing, which he planned with two teenage friends after assuring them that "their status as juveniles would allow them to get away with it," according to court briefs filed by Missouri Attorney General Jeremiah W. "Jay" Nixon.


"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," Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion.

That’s really sad coming from Kennedy. Come on, he knew exactly what he was doing, and not only that --- he *knew* the courts would go easier on him for his youth, and his ‘sad life.’ That alone should make it clear he understood fully what he was doing. And the idea that some switch is flicked, and had he done this crime a few months later, well then … then he’d know what he had been doing. Cases like this should not be based on age, but on the basis of the evidence.

O’Connor had it right.

"It defies common sense to suggest that 17-year-olds as a class are somehow equivalent to mentally retarded persons with regard to culpability or susceptibility to deterrence," O'Connor wrote. "The fact that juveniles are generally less culpable for their misconduct than adults does not necessarily mean that a 17-year-old murderer cannot be sufficiently culpable to merit the death penalty."

While people against the death penalty celebrated:

"We exclude minors from society in both significant and trivial ways," Levick said. "They cannot vote, enlist in the military, sit on juries or even get tattoos. The court has now brought their eligibility in line with those exclusions."

And …

"The Supreme Court decision confirms recent, compelling scientific research findings, that the capacity for curbing impulsiveness, using sound judgment, and exercising self-control is much less developed in adolescents than in adults," Former President Jimmy Carter wrote.

Give me a break, while we don’t let individuals under 18 to vote, a 17 year old can enlist in the military, they can get an abortion without parental consent, get married in some states, but they can’t commit a murder without knowing what they are doing? And as if his bad life is an excuse, what if he was 19 when he did this, would his bad life matter? No, and it shouldn’t, unless it was perhaps his dad that he murdered, but it wasn’t anything like that.

The worst part however is the idea that would should agree to this because much “the rest of the world does” well much of the rest of the world is nothing like the US, corrupt governments, etc, etc, we should be leading not following them.


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