Controversial Issues Regarding Juvenile Death Penalty

2073 words - 8 pages

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...

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