There are currently 19 states that allow the execution of 16 and 17 year olds for the commission of capital crimes and 73 people are currently on death row for crimes they committed when they were that age. However, the U.S. Supreme Court has already banned the executions of 15 year olds and fewer states now allow execution for all juveniles since that 1988 ruling. watch when children kill
A case study: Christopher Simmons
Christopher Simmons was 17 years old when he was arrested for the September 9, 1993 murder of Shirley Crook. Crook’s body was found in the Meramec River in St. Louis County, Missouri. She had been tied with electric cable, leather straps and duct tape, had bruises on her body and fractured ribs. The cause of her death was ruled as drowning. Simmons had a family history of abuse, a possible mental condition and substance abuse dependency. The jury who sentenced him was not given any information about his psychological condition. watch roper vs simmons university project
- The Argument for the Death Penalty for Juveniles
In a society, which is experiencing an increase in violence by juveniles, banning the death penalty would remove a much-needed deterrent.
Response: Actually, the death penalty does not prove to be a deterrent for violent crime for both adults and juveniles. Criminal studies have proven there is no correlation between the two.watch riots UK 2011 sentences harsh courts debate deterrent
- Certain cases such as murder sprees, murder, terrorism, and child murder warrant the death penalty. Consider Columbine, Colorado, (murder spree) and the murder of James Bulger by two adolescent boys lending credence to this argument. The Columbine teenagers committed suicide after their killing spree, but had they lived, imprisonment for life without parole or the death penalty could have been their punishment. watch the columbine killers Colorado supports execution of prisoners guilty of a capital offence. Jon Venables and Robert Thompson are the youngest convicted murderers in modern English history. They were jailed for their juvenile years only and set free at the age of 18. watch Columbine video footage
Response: The early release upon reaching the legal adult age of 18 for Venables and Thompson caused outrage in the British public. “. Psychiatric experts described Venables as posing a “trivial” risk to the public and unlikely to reoffend. watch Mo teen gets life sentence for killing girl, 9 Although the chances of his successful rehabilitation was diagnosed as “very high” many people felt an eight year sentence was not justifiable considering the depravity of James’ murder. Many British felt the boys should have received the death penalty, however the latter is impossible since Britain abolished capital punishment in 1969, and 1973 in Northern Ireland. watch James Bulger Killer Jon Venables recalled to jail
- Juveniles who commit violent crime are fully aware of their actions and the consequences for the victim and themselves. watch alyssa bustamante pleads not guilty Their youth is not proof of lack of comprehension. watch: police: teen killed to see what it felt like
Response: The personal background of juveniles should be made available to the jury in cases of violent crime. Many juveniles hail from extremely abusive homes, drug and alcohol-addicted parents, constant upheaval in the foster system, mental illness and personality disorders.watch 10-year-old Ohio boy kills his mother These facts do not excuse violent juvenile crime however they offer a more complete perspective about the character and childhood of juvenile offenders. watch juvenile offenders in their own words
- Rehabilitation is unlikely for extreme criminals.
Response: There is much truth in this argument but if juveniles are executed for their crimes there is no proof supporting or denying this stance. watch execution of teresa lewis Juveniles who are assessed as psychopaths may provide a strong argument for execution, since, to date, psychopathy is not a disorder that has demonstrated rehabilitation in criminal behaviour. Mary Bell was a juvenile who strangled two toddlers to death yet, upon her release after imprisonment, she has not re-offended.
- Protection of the public via the death penalty. watch psychopathy and criminal behaviour
Response: If a juvenile is committed to life in prison it is not likely s/he will be released in order to reoffend.
A Case Study: Eric Smith
In Savona, NY in 1994, Eric Smith, aged 13, tortured and murdered 4-year-old Derrick Robie. The reason he killed Robie remains a mystery. watch teenage child killer speaks Smith had an ambiguous background in terms of parenting and his own mental state, however he was not severely abused or neglected. Some criminal experts have agreed that should he be released from prison, Eric Smith will kill again, and likely become a serial killer. watch young killer gives first-ever interview
- The Argument Against the Death Penalty for Juveniles
Executing children is immoral and uncivilized.
Response: So is murder, rape and other violent crimes.
- Scientific research shows that juveniles are underdeveloped and immature, particularly in the areas of the brain that dictate reason, impulse control and decision-making, and therefore should not be held culpable. watch brandon hein life pt 1
Response: Not holding juvenile offenders as culpable is allowing juvenile violent crime to go unpunished. watch child of rage – the documentary
- A high percentage of juveniles on death row have suffered mental abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, drug addiction, abandonment and severe poverty. watch most evil masterminds 1/5
Response: Many children suffer abuse yet do not become juveniles and do not commit violent crime. watch quiet kid learns to cope in prison
- The execution of juveniles is expressly forbidden in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, theAmerican Convention on Human Rights, theGeneva Convention Relative to theProtection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, and theUnited Nations Convention on theRights of the Child. watch frontline – putting children in jail for life
Response: There is no arguing against powerful human rights groups and laws that forbid juvenile death penalty. However it is reasonable to state that juvenile offences should be judged on a case-by-case basis.
- Life imprisonmentfor violent crimes committed by juveniles forces the criminal to reflect upon their crime and, consequently, their lack of freedom for the rest of their lives. watch young kids hard time
Response: Most criminals reveal self-pity, rather than remorse, for the loss of their freedom through imprisonment. Very few demonstrate remorse. watch 10-year-old boy goes to prison