Academic journal article Houston Journal of International Law

The United States' Choice to Violate International Law by Allowing the Juvenile Death Penalty

Academic journal article Houston Journal of International Law

The United States' Choice to Violate International Law by Allowing the Juvenile Death Penalty

Article excerpt

I. INTRODUCTION

A. Overview of Analysis

The United States Supreme Court did not grant certiorari to Michael Domingues, an individual sentenced to death for a crime he committed as a juvenile. (1) The Nevada Supreme Court upheld his sentence of capital punishment. (2) However, by allowing the execution of Michael Domingues and other juvenile offenders, the United States chose to violate international treaties, customary international law, and jus cogens. (3) In Domingues v. State, Domingues argued he should be resentenced because capital punishment for juvenile criminal offenders violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ("ICCPR"). (4) The decision of the Nevada Supreme Court to ignore Domingues' claim for the enforcement of international treaty law and the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to deny certiorari shows the arrogance and self-important attitude with which the United States makes international decisions. Through its denial of certiorari, the United States knowingly chose to overlook international treaty law, customary international law, andjus cogens when a violation is being made within its states.

B. History

In 1972, the Supreme Court found the death penalty unconstitutional in Furman v. Georgia, (5) a decision based primarily on the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment contained in the Eighth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution. (6) Four years later, after the state of Georgia revised its capital sentencing statutes, the Supreme Court held the death penalty was not unconstitutional per se in Gregg v. Georgia. (7) Twenty-five years later, the death penalty is still on the books, and states continue to execute individuals under their capital sentencing statutes. (8) Looking specifically at the execution of juveniles or individuals who committed their crimes while under the age of eighteen, the United States is only one of seven countries to execute juveniles in the past decade. (9)

As to its international responsibilities in this area, in 1992 the United States became a party to the ICCPR, an international human rights treaty. (10) Article 6 of the ICCPR deals with sentencing juveniles to death, stating the death penalty "shall not be imposed for crimes committed by persons below eighteen years of age...." (11) However, when the U. S. Senate ratified this treaty, it reserved the right "subject to its Constitutional constraints, to impose capital punishment on any person ... including such punishment for crimes committed by persons below eighteen years of age." (12)

This reservation by the Senate is pertinent because it may disallow the application of Article 6 of the ICCPR to U.S. state governments. (13) The Supremacy Clause of the Constitution of the United States provides that "all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the Supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding." (14) Under the Supremacy Clause, U.S. state governments should not be able to enforce the death penalty against individuals who committed their crimes while under the age of eighteen because such enforcement would violate Article 6 of the ICCPR, a treaty to which the United States is a party. (15) However, the Senate reserved the right under the treaty for the states to continue their capital sentencing as they had done previously, making the validity of that reservation the focus of much attention.16

II. STATEMENT OF FACTS

A. Fact Summary

On October 22, 1993, Michael Domingues murdered a woman and her young son in their Nevada home during a burglary. (17) At the time of the murder, Domingues was sixteen years old. (18) A jury convicted Domingues of one count of burglary, one count of robbery with the use of a deadly weapon, one count of first degree murder, and one count of first degree murder with the use of a deadly weapon in August 1994. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.