I think the punishment should be on the table if the crime warrants it. But I also think juries have shown temperance in not meeting it out where a "child" has committed the crime.
We need to do a better job in this country in dealing with violent juvenile offenders in general. It is sad that perhaps a third judicial system may be needed to deal with them, but to me this seems the only viable solution. There are problems with the regular juvie system because it is totally ill equipped in handling murderers and the like -- not to mention that rehab of non-violent juvenlie criminals is not likely to be improved by throwing them in with the violent ones. There are also problems with treating violent juveniles in a system intended for adults -- we saw this in the Lionel Tate case where the Mom was bargaining with prosecutors on her son's behalf but then it was Lionel himself that would have faced the full sentence had it been upheld. I think we need to fix this.
Next week, the United States Supreme Court will hear argument in Roper v. Simmons. The case calls upon the Court to consider once again the question whether the Constitution permits the government to execute offenders who committed their crimes while under the age of eighteen.
In 1989, in Stanford v. Kentucky, the Court answered the question yes, even though it had held a year earlier, in Thompson v. Oklahoma, that the Eighth Amendment barred the execution of convicts who were fifteen years of age or younger at the time of their crimes. The distinction between fifteen and sixteen, said the Court, was based upon the respective presence or absence of a national consensus.
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The issue of executing minors raises important questions about what we believe makes a person deserving of the ultimate sanction.
For the record the 8th Amendment simply says,
"Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted."
What did this mean in 1791 when this amendment was ratified and what should it mean today?