Teens, Murder and the Supreme Court.(EDITORIALS)

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), October 23, 2002 | Go to article overview
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Teens, Murder and the Supreme Court.(EDITORIALS)


Byline: THE WASHINGTON TIMES

If it's proper - morally - to execute a duly convicted 18-year-old murderer, why should a 17-year-old who commits a similar offense be spared?

It's a question at least four of the Supreme Court's justices should ask themselves as they continue to push for the abolition of capital punishment for juvenile offenders. Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and David Souter this week formally stated their opposition to the execution of criminals under the legally arbitrary age of 18. Writing for the minority in a 5-4 dissent, Justice Stevens wrote that capital punishment applied to those under 18 "is a relic of the past that is inconsistent with evolving standards of decency in a civilized society . . . We should put an end to this shameful practice." Justice Stevens argued that those under 18 have poor impulse control and are not fully culpable morally for their actions. He added that the death penalty served no deterrent purpose when it comes to juvenile offenders - though he apparently forgets that by removing such individuals from the Earth, they are thereby rendered very much "deterred" from committing mayhem in the future.

Justice Stevens likened the execution of a juvenile murderer to that of a mentally retarded or incompetent person - in effect, arguing that at age 18, a sudden moral and intellectual awakening occurs that opens the eyes of the young murderer to the foul nature of his deed. It's an absurd proposition on its face, and should be read more correctly as the leading edge of a more general attack upon capital punishment itself.

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