NYPost said:High Court Ends Death Penalty for Youths
By HOPE YEN
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A closely divided Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that it's unconstitutional to execute juvenile killers, ending a practice in 19 states that has been roundly condemned by many of America's closest allies.
The 5-4 decision throws out the death sentences of 72 murderers who were under 18 when they committed their crimes and bars states from seeking to execute minors for future crimes.
The executions, the court said, violate the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
"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.
The ruling continues the court's practice of narrowing the scope of the death penalty, which justices reinstated in 1976. Executions for those 15 and younger when they committed their crimes were outlawed in 1988. Three years ago justices banned death sentences for the mentally retarded.
Tuesday's ruling prevents states from making 16- and 17-year-olds eligible for execution.
As a result, officials in Prince William County, Va., said Tuesday they will not prosecute a murder case there against teen sniper Lee Boyd Malvo, who is already serving life in prison in two of the 10 sniper killings that terrorized the Washington area in 1992. Prince William County Commonwealth's Attorney Paul Ebert had hoped to get the death penalty for Malvo, who was 17 at the time of the killings, but said another trial would now be an unnecessary expense.
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.
"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.
Kennedy noted most states don't allow the execution of juvenile killers and those that do use the penalty infrequently. The trend, he said, is to abolish the practice because "our society views juveniles ... as categorically less culpable than the average criminal."
In a dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia disputed that there is a trend and chastised his colleagues for taking power from the states.
"The court says in so many words that what our people's laws say about the issue does not, in the last analysis, matter: 'In the end our own judgment will be brought to bear on the question of the acceptability of the death penalty,'" he wrote.
"The court thus proclaims itself sole arbiter of our nation's moral standards," Scalia wrote.
Death penalty opponents quickly cheered the ruling.
"Today, the court repudiated the misguided idea that the United States can pledge to leave no child behind while simultaneously exiling children to the death chamber," said William F. Schulz, executive director of Amnesty International USA.
"Now the U.S. can proudly remove its name from the embarrassing list of human rights violators that includes China, Iran, and Pakistan that still execute juvenile offenders," he said.
Dianne Clements, president of the Houston-based Justice for All victims' advocacy group, criticized the decision and said she hopes that when there is a Supreme Court vacancy a strong death penalty supporter is nominated.
"The Supreme Court has opened the door for more innocent people to suffer by 16 and 17 year olds," she said. "I can't wait for the Supreme Court to have judges more concerned with American values, American statutes and American law than what the Europeans think."
The Supreme Court has permitted states to impose capital punishment since 1976. Twenty-two of the people put to death since then were juveniles when they committed their crimes. Texas executed the most, 13, and also has the most on death row now - 29.
More than 3,400 inmates await execution in the 38 states that allow death sentences.
Justices were called on to draw an age line for executions after Missouri's highest court overturned the death sentence given to Christopher Simmons, who was 17 when he kidnapped a neighbor, hog-tied her and threw her off a bridge in 1993. Prosecutors say he planned the burglary and killing of Shirley Crook and bragged that he could get away with it because of his age.
The four most liberal Supreme Court justices - John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer - had gone on record in 2002 opposing the death penalty for juveniles, calling it "shameful." Those four, joined by Kennedy, formed Tuesday's decision.
Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justice Clarence Thomas joined Scalia in seeking to uphold the executions.
Justice Sandra Day O'Connor filed a separate dissent, arguing that a blanket rule against juvenile executions was misguided. Case-by-case determinations of a young offenders' maturity is the better approach, she wrote.
"The court's analysis is premised on differences in the aggregate between juveniles and adults, which frequently do not hold true when comparing individuals," she said.
"Chronological age is not an unfailing measure of psychological development, and common experience suggests that many 17-year-olds are more mature than the average young 'adult.'"
The 19 states allow executions for people under age 18 are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, Texas and Virginia.
The federal government does not execute juveniles.
The case is Roper v. Simmons, 03-633.
:question: What do you think, Should they be executed.
I think, if they are old enough to commit murder, then they are old enough to pay for those crimes with their life.
Although, I do feel that it all depends on the circumstances surrounding the murder.