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A case for Malvo to watch

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?

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Re: A case for Malvo to watch

In reply to: A case for Malvo to watch

Hi Clay,

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.

Evie Happy

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In 1805 according to the diaries of Lewis and Clark

In reply to: Re: A case for Malvo to watch

they didnt consider a punishment of 500 lashes excessive for one of their men being AWOL. So what was cruel and unusual at the time certainly must have looked very different than what is acceptable now . The excerpt by the way was published in a recent issue of the Smithsonian Magazine. The diary does not say how many of those lashes were postmortem!

Based on this executing a 15 year old would not have been considered cruel and unusual at the time. Perhaps disembowelment might have been...

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Present day executions ...

In reply to: In 1805 according to the diaries of Lewis and Clark

... in most of this country -- by lethal injection, applied to an already sedated person under sterile conditions following a nice meal -- simply fail any objective measure of cruel or unusual. But killing a "child" will always tug at the heart strings and there is the added measure of ending a young life before they reached adulthood. I find it interesting how much we seem to think kids can handle in every other facet of life, what wisdom we seem to impart to them at times, yet somehow they become "children" if they commit a horrific act.

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