Juveniles And Death Penalty 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 1966:1055). 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.
The question is, should established mechanisms for transferring or waiving juvenile court jurisdiction in these exceptional cases take away these special rights and subject the youth to the full range of penalties for criminal behavior including, in some jurisdictions, execution (Thomson vs. State, 1986:784) ? 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 finality of the death penalty ? This paper will discuss a history of capital punishment for juveniles in the United States, methods of transferring juvenile cases to criminal courts, and also my position on the subject and justice of justice of juveniles and 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, 1988). 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, 1972: 2763, Thompson v. Oklahoma, 1988: 487 U.S. 815). 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 ( Streib 1 of 2). 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 (Streib 1 of 2). 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 (1972: 2823) 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 (Hale 23). In English Common L, Criminal intent had to be proven in cases concerning offenders of ages seven to fourteen.
This carried over to become an American standard (hale 23). Only in cases of youth ages fourteen and over was it possible to concede that they had the mental capacity to perform a crime with mens rea (Samaha 1993:295). After adopting these common laws, individual states made specific changes within the law. For example, some states excluded juvenile court from the proceedings when crimes were severe (hale 23). These exclusions lead to my next subject on the methods of transferring juvenile cases to criminal courts and in turn, makes it possible to sentence violent juvenile offenders the death penalty.
The idea of whether or not the death penalty should apply to juvenile violent offenders is only possible through the transfer of juveniles out of the juvenile court and into the adult criminal court. Only then can a guilty violent youth be punished to the full extent. As the number of certified or transferred cases increases, the public recognition that juveniles can and do commit serious felonies also increases (Samaha 1993: 295). Essentially, youths who are transferred to criminal court are not so much helped out of the juvenile justice system, as thrown out of it (Dorn and Gewerth, 306). There are three basic types of transportation methods. The first one to be discussed is also the most common.
This method is judicial waiver. Recently, states have begun to integrate the age of criminal responsibility with jurisdiction of juvenile courts, for example, some states grant jurisdiction to a particular age, usually between fifteen and sixteen while from ages sixteen to eighteen (sometimes twenty-one) juvenile judges can transfer or certify these cases to the adult criminal courts (Samah 1993: 295). An example of …