03/01/2005: Picking and choosing....
Via Melanie at Just a Bump on the Beltway, we hear that (apparently yesterday) the U.S. Supreme Court ruled (5-4, of course) that execution of convicts who were juveniles when they committed their crimes is a violation of the Eighth Amendment.
The ruling continues the court's practice of narrowing the scope of the death penalty, which justices reinstated in 1976. The court in 1988 outlawed executions for those 15 and younger when they committed their crimes. Three years ago justices banned executions of the mentally retarded.Interestingly enough, the Court was influenced by the weight of public opinion--outside the United States.
Tuesday's ruling prevents states from making 16- and 17-year-olds eligible for execution.
"The age of 18 is the point where society draws the line for many purposes between childhood and adulthood. It is, we conclude, the age at which the line for death eligibility ought to rest," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote.
Juvenile offenders have been put to death in recent years in only a few other countries, including Iran, Pakistan, China and Saudi Arabia. Kennedy cited international opposition to the practice.I say "interestingly enough" because Melanie Gets It, even if most of us here in the "enlightened" United States (including a large percentage of lawyers and judges, who really should know better) don't:
"It is proper that we acknowledge the overwhelming weight of international opinion against the juvenile death penalty, resting in large part on the understanding that the instability and emotional imbalance of young people may often be a factor in the crime," he wrote.
This is another arena in which we stand judged in the eyes of the world: we are the only nation in the industrial west which still allows the death penalty. If Kennedy wants to cite international standards, then the court should have the death penalty illegal in toto.
Len on 03.01.05 @ 11:45 AM CST