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Supreme Court abolishes death penalty


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I suppose this means if you are going to kill someone, do it before you turn 18. Then you will only have to serve several years in jail and then be released. Would someone please tell me where in the Constitution it forbids the execution of killers who were under 18 when they committed their crimes?

Justices abolish death penalty for juveniles

5-4 ruling affects 70 cases, including Malvo in sniper killings

The Associated

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the Constitution forbids the execution of killers who were under 18 when they committed their crimes, ending a practice used in 19 states.

The 5-4 decision throws out the death sentences of about 70 juvenile murderers and bars states from seeking to execute minors for future crimes.

The ruling had an immediate effect on the nation's most notorious teen killer, sniper Lee Boyd Malvo.

Prosecutors in Virginia's Prince William County had waited for the ruling to decide on bringing Malvo to trial for one of the 10 killings in an October 2002 killing spree by Malvo and accomplice John Allen Muhammad.

Prosecutor Paul Ebert said after the ruling that he won't prosecute Malvo, because Malvo has already been sentenced to life in prison without parole for two of the killings. Ebert said another trial would now be an unnecessary expense.

Earlier limits

The executions, the court said, violate the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

The ruling continues the court’s practice of narrowing the scope of the death penalty, which justices reinstated in 1976. The court in 1988 outlawed executions for those 15 and younger when they committed their crimes. Three years ago justices banned executions of the mentally retarded.

Tuesday’s ruling prevents states from making 16- and 17-year-olds eligible for execution.

“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.

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.”

Kennedy joins more liberal justices

Justices were called on to draw an age line in death cases after Missouri’s highest court overturned the death sentence given to a 17-year-old Christopher Simmons, who kidnapped a neighbor in Missouri, hog-tied her and threw her off a bridge. Prosecutors say he planned the burglary and killing of Shirley Crook in 1993 and bragged that he could get away with it because of his age.

The four most liberal justices had already gone on record in 2002, calling it “shameful” to execute juvenile killers. Those four, joined by Kennedy, also agreed with Tuesday’s decision: Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.

Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, as expected, voted to uphold the executions. They were joined by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

Before Tuesday's ruling, 19 states allowed executions for people under age 18: 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 already bars the execution of juveniles for federal capital crimes.

Scalia, O'Connor write dissents

In a dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia disputed that there is a clear trend of declining juvenile executions. Without that clear trend, he added, it's impossible to talk of a growing consensus against the practice.

“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 in a 24-page dissent.

“The court thus proclaims itself sole arbiter of our nation’s moral standards,” Scalia wrote.

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.”’

Amnesty International welcomes ruling

Death penalty opponents quickly cheered the ruling as a victory for human rights.

“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 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.

The Supreme Court has permitted states to impose capital punishment since 1976 and more than 3,400 inmates await execution in the 38 states that allow death sentences.


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I feel this case shouldn't classify the entire juvi population. I mean not every murderer gets the death penalty.

Malvo should be eligible for the death penalty.

But I can just see the opposition... Bush wants to execute 8 &9 year olds :poke:

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This should be left up to the states. I don't see the need for a federal law on this.

But then again...I think a lot more things should be left up to the states...

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Then if they're not fuly formed: 16 is too young for a drivers liscence, they don't have the capacity to have abortions without their parent's concent, and in Alabama, you can drop out as early as age 16. So that should be changed too. :poke:

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•Tenn. School Bus Driver Shot to Death

CUMBERLAND CITY, Tenn.  — Joyce Gregory was about halfway through her morning school bus route when she stopped to pick up 14-year-old Jason Clinard. But police believe that instead of getting on the bus early Wednesday, Clinard fatally shot Gregory with a .45-caliber handgun, an act apparently prompted by an argument over Clinard's use of smokeless tobacco.

None of the 24 students on the bus, ranging in ages from 5 to 17, were hurt.

The shooting happened about 6:15 a.m. just outside Cumberland City, about 50 miles northwest of Nashville. Gregory, a 47-year-old married mother of two daughters, was picking up students and taking them to Dover Elementary and Stewart County High School.

Two weeks ago, Gregory told family members she was having trouble with students "dipping snuff" on the bus, according to her cousin, Jacqueline Reed. After several warnings, she reported them to school administrators Tuesday, Reed said. The 14-year-old suspect was among the students.

The boy had not yet boarded the bus when the driver was shot, said Jennifer Johnson, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (search). Police would not say where the boy got the weapon.

Officials gave few details about the shooting and would not comment on a motive for the shooting. They also refused to release the boy's name, but neighbors, schoolmates and Gregory's relatives identified him as Clinard.

District Attorney Dan Alsobrooks said the suspect was charged with first-degree murder in Juvenile Court and was being held without bond. He said the boy could face adult charges as the investigation continues.

Public defender Jack Lockert met with the boy for about 45 minutes.

"I would characterize him as being in shock," Lockert said. "We obviously feel like he has severe mental issues. He's an A and B student and had never been in trouble before."

Clinard was taken to a juvenile detention center in Nashville and will undergo a psychiatric evaluation in the next 30 days.

Gregory was a teacher's assistant for four or five years and had been a bus driver for the past two years, said Phillip Wallace, director of Stewart County Schools.

"I lost a good friend this morning, so I'm hurt," said Bill Austin, a supervisor for Stewart County schools. "We're trying to do our level best to get our kids through this. That's what we've got to do right now."

Well, if this true, he won't be sentenced to death because he doesn't have the capacity to understand what he's doing :angry:


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and in Alabama, you can drop out as early as age 16. So that should be changed too. :poke:


If I am not mistaken, there is a bill in the Ala legislature now that would raise the age to 18. It will be mandatory to stay in school till age a 18. Which raises another question. If they don't want to be in school, there is the distinct possibility that they will only be disrupting classes for all other students.

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and in Alabama, you can drop out as early as age 16. So that should be changed too. :poke:


If I am not mistaken, there is a bill in the Ala legislature now that would raise the age to 18. It will be mandatory to stay in school till age a 18. Which raises another question. If they don't want to be in school, there is the distinct possibility that they will only be disrupting classes for all other students.


You're right, but I doubt it will pass. I agree with you. Those that are more likely to drop out are the ones that bring the school system down.

They had a bill that weould require kids to start school at age 5. It got shot down. It remains at age 7.

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They had a bill that weould require kids to start school at age 5. It got shot down. It remains at age 7.


I thought K & K5 were mandatory. I know my children and grandchildren went through both. Or maybe my wife just wanted a break. :big:

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When I stated that the age to drop out should be changed,I was making an opinion based on the reasons of the abolishment.

I think public schools sometimes give kids too many chances. We've all heard the stories: disrupting class, cussing at the teacher, fighting,ect..

But I wonder how many kids have been kicked out over the last year?

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If you heinously murder another human being, then you do not need to exist. Each person is taught from day one to NOT KILL. Even an 8 yr old knows that its wrong to kill another human being. So unless self preservation or fear of death or injury to another is involved, then fire up ole sparky. Oh yeah, I forgot, they shut ole sparky down.

I am really a proponent of killing the murderer the same way he/she killied their victim. But I guess that is cruel and unusual.

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Seems to me that the really young criminals may still have a chance for rehabilitation, find redemption in Jesus, maybe change and do some good for society. A full grown adult, it's too late for that.

It ain't as if killing the crook is gonna bring the victim back.

The real problem I see with this juvenile death penalty thing is the crime lords who recruit younger and younger kids to do their dirty work BACAUSE of "juvenile immunity". They gonna be getting kids to perform mob hits now? If you ask me, them that teaches kids to kill--they're the ones who oughta get the death penalty.

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  • 2 weeks later...


Two Selma juveniles charged in fatal shooting

SELMA, Ala. (AP) -- Two 17-year-old Selma High School students have been charged with capital murder in the weekend shooting death of a Selma man.

The teenagers' names were not released because they are juveniles and a grand jury will review the case, police said Monday. They are being held without bond in the Dallas County Jail.

Selma police said Charles Edward Brown, 20, was found in a vehicle near the Highway 80 bypass with an apparent gunshot wound to the head about 3:30 a.m. Sunday.

Brown was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The two juveniles were arrested by Officer Edward Merrell a short time later. Merrell went to the areae after hearing gunshots.

According to a police department press release, Merrell saw a vehicle leave the bypass in a "reckless manner" and running a stop sign. He stopped the car with the two youths inside. Dispatchers reported a shooting victim in the area soon after.

Merrell detained the suspects and a pistol was recovered from the car later.

"He was doing his job and was in the right place at the right time," Public Relations Officer Lt. David Evans said.

While the two are to be charged with capital murder, they would not be subject to the death penalty if convicted because of their age. The Supreme Court recently ruled against the execution of defendants under the age of 18.

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