Juveniles and Capital Punishment
One of the most controversial issues in the rights of juveniles today is addressed in the question, "Should the death penalty be applied to juveniles"? For nearly a century the juvenile courts have existed to shield the majority of juvenile offenders from the full weight of criminal law and to protect their entitled "special rights and immunities." In the case of Kent vs. United states in 1996, Justice Fortas stated some of these "special rights" which include; Protection from publicity, confinement only to twenty-one years of age, no confinement with adults, and protection against the consequences of adult conviction such as the loss of civil rights, the use of adjudication against him in subsequent proceedings and disqualification of public employment (Kent vs. US). These “special rights and immunities “exist so that the justice courts can provide measures of guidance and rehabilitation for the child along with protection for society. However, there are some youths who are extremely dangerous and do not respond to attempts to reform themselves. Should These juveniles who perform the same malicious acts as some adult capital offenders be subject to the harshness of the criminal courts and the extreme punishment of the death penalty ? The constitutionality of the juvenile death penalty reached a settlement in 1988 in the case of Thompson v. Oklahoma when four Supreme Court Justices reached the conclusion that: persons under sixteen years of age cannot be sentenced to death (Thompson v. Oklahoma). Justice Stevens, Brennan, Marshall, and Blackmun considered these important issues as they were deliberating on the case: (1) Does a national consensus forbidding executions of juveniles exist?; (2) the extent to which the laws of other Western European nations prohibit or permit the execution of juveniles, and the opinions of " respected professional organizations;" (3) the degree to which the juveniles should be held responsible for their actions; (4) Whether the execution of juveniles contributed to the retributive or deterrent goals of punishment; and (5) Whether the small number of juveniles executed represents the "waton and freakish" application of the death penalty as condemned by Justice Stewart in Furman V. Georgia (Furman v. Georgia, , Thompson v. Oklahoma,). Following the decision, thirty eight states and the federal government created statutes authorizing the death penalty for certain forms of murder and other capital offenses .Thompson v. Oklahoma held that no state within the minimum age line within its death penalty can go below the age of sixteen. Presently, fifteen states have chosen the min age of eighteen, four states have chosen the minimum age of seventeen (including Georgia), And twenty states have chosen the minimum age of sixteen. Before 1988, there was an uncertainty as to how the government should handle the juveniles and their capital crimes. There was one consensus among Justices and that was that the constitution and the Eighth Amendment did not outlaw juveniles receiving the death penalty. In furman v. Georgia justice powell wrote: " ... The unswerving position that the court has taken in opinions spanning the last hundred years. On Virtually every occasion that any opinion has touched on the question . . . it has been asserted affirmatively, or tacitly assumed, that the Constitution does not prohibit the penalty." The Constitution, which has its roots in English Common Law, is not in violation in the case of juvenile death penalties. Before the minimum age of 16 statutes, English Common law from the 16th Century had a direct influence on the Constitution. This common law carried over to American statutes and established the presumption that no one under the age of seven had the mental capacity to commit crimes, therefore, they had no concept of mens rea or evil intent. In English Common L, Criminal intent had to be proven in cases concerning offenders of ages seven...
Cited: "Furman v. Georgia." TheFreeDictionary.com. 05 Mar. 2001. Web. 24 Apr. 2012. <http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Furman v. Georgia>.
"Kent v. United States." LII. 19 Jan. 1966. Web. 24 Apr. 2012. <http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/historics/USSC_CR_0383_0541_ZS.html>.
Taylor, Robert W., and Eric J. Fritsch. Juvenile Justice: Policies, Programs, and Practices. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2010. Print.
"Thompson v. Oklahoma | Capital Punishment in Context." Welcome to Capital Punishment in Context. 22 Feb. 2008. Web. 24 Apr. 2012. <http://www.capitalpunishmentincontext.org/resources/casesummaries/thompson>.
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