Shayla S. Burris
March 6, 2007
Juveniles and the Death Penalty
Today, minors are using their age as a shield against capital punishment. Adolescents believe that since they are not eighteen they will not be punished for the crimes they commit. The death penalty is appropriate for juveniles in certain circumstances, such as murder and brutal crimes that are considered capital offenses. The rate at which the death penalty is carried out, as well as inconstancies in sentencing does not make it a deterrent. There should not be an age limit in all capital offenses for those who could face the death penalty. Adolescents should know what he or she are doing is wrong, and is a crime. An age limits does not predict when one is able to handle responsibilities. What they do is assume is that one should be able to take on new responsibilities, laws, and issues. One is not suddenly capable of driving at sixteen, and not immediately given the knowledge of the voting system at eighteen. How does a specific age predict when a person knows right from wrong? Though many people have different view points on capital punishment, present the background, arguments, and information on juveniles and the death penalty need to be analyzed.
Capital punishment is the lawful infliction of death as a punishment. Since ancient times, it has been used for a wide variety of offenses. "The Bible prescribes death for murder and many other crimes including kidnapping and witchcraft. By 1500 in England, only major felonies carried the death penalty- treason, murder, larceny, burglary, rape, and arson. By 1700, however, Parliament had enacted many new capital offences and hundreds of persons were being put to death each year" (Palmer, Louis J.). The reformation of the death penalty began in Europe in the 1750's. The jurists Ceseare Beccaria, Voltaire, Jeremy Bentham, and Samuel Romilly argued that the death penalty was cruel, overrated as a deterrent and occasionally imposed in fatal error; they defended life imprisonment as a more rational alternative. By the 1850's Venezuela (1853) and Portugal (1867) were the first nations to abolish the death penalty altogether. In the United States, Michigan was the first state to abolish it for murder in 1847. Today, all of Western Europe and most of Latin America have virtually abolished the death penalty. In America, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East (except Israel) they still retain the death penalty for certain crimes and impose it with the varying frequency. In 2004, lethal injection replaced hanging and shooting as the two most common methods of execution followed by beheading. Lethal injection, which is almost universal in America, is also used now in China, the Philippines, Thailand and Guatemala. Electrocution, and the gas chamber are used in America and seem to be disappearing slowly; the inmate has to elect to die by these methods. Stoning for sexual offences, including adultery, may still occur in some Islamic countries. China, with a quarter of the world's population, carries out the most executions for a wide variety of offences.
First, the definition of a juvenile is a young person, one below the legally established age of adulthood; a person under the age of eighteen when the crime was committed. What age is too young for the death penalty? A better question is at what age is it too young to die for the murder of another human being. In the United States, the Supreme Court ruled that juveniles under the age of sixteen should not be sentenced to death because they are too young. This was upheld in the case of Stanford versus Kentucky. The Eighth Amendment does not prohibit the death penalty for a defendant who was 16 or 17 years old when he committed the crime. In the book Death Penalty Cases: Leading U.S. Supreme Court Cases on Capital Punishment it was written, "One year before Stanford v. Kentucky was decided, the Supreme Court ruled...
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