A Debated about Whether Death Penalty of Juveniles Is Right or Not

In October 1989, a month after turning seventeen, Dwayne Wright went on a violent crime spree that lead to a robbery, attempted rape, and shooting of thirty-three year old Saba Tekle. When caught the next day, Dwayne confessed to the police and was tried in 1991.

Before this crime, Dwayne grew up in a poor family and lived in a deprived neighborhood. He was exposed to criminal drug activities along with witnessing habitual gun violence and murder. At the age of four, Dwaynes father died in prison and his mother suffered from mental illness.

She was often unemployed for extensive amounts of time.

At the age of ten, his half-brother was murdered leading to eventual serious emotional problems. Dwayne was treated for major depression with psychotic episodes. Not only was his mental capacity evaluated as borderline retarded but his verbal ability was retarded and doctors found signs of organic brain damage.

At the sentencing phase of his trial, the defense accepted the courts nomination of a clinical psychologist to present evidence in mitigation.

On close examination, the defense lawyer learned that the psychologist was the author of a study, which concluded that mental illness and environment are not responsible for people committing crimes. The prosecutor argued that this random killer [Dwayne] should die for his crimes. Thus, Dwayne was the first juvenile offender put to death in Virginia in over sixty-five years. He was executed on October 21, 1998. (Back to the Future) This case and many more are some of the reasons why the death penalty should not be allowed for juveniles.

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In the United States today, twenty-five states allow the execution of juveniles; twenty-one states have set the minimum age for execution at sixteen and four states at seventeen. (Potter) The US makes no secret of its determination to ignore this particular human rights violation. The federal government has explicitly reserved the right to defy the international ban on the issue of the death penalty against those who commit crimes under the legal age of eighteen. State authorities continue this practice unconcerned about world opinion resulting in over seventy juvenile offenders that await their deaths at the hands of US officials.

The contradictions within the laws assume that juveniles dont have sufficient responsibility, maturity, or judgment to make many decisions. At the same time, passing judgment that they are fully in control of their physical and mental judgments when engaging in such criminal behavior is appalling and an illogical contradiction in the law. This is an especially known fact when knowing that children are often impulsive and reckless in their actions.

Fifty years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the vision of universal freedom from state cruelty is still somewhat ignored in the US. More than half the countries in the world have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. Of the declining number of retentionist nations, the vast majority respect international human rights law by restricting capital punishment to adult offenders. It seems to be ironic that the country which repeatedly proclaims itself to be the worlds most progressive force for human rights in fact, heads a tiny circle of nations with a far less distinguished claim to famethe execution of juvenile offenders.

Since being reinstated in 1976, the death penalty has been generally thought of as a punishment reserved for the worst of the worst, the heartless, and hardened men and women with histories of abuse and no hope of redemption. Some critics of the juvenile offender executions say it simply should not apply to even violent criminals whose youth offers the potential for rehabilitation.

The goal of retribution cannot be achieved by executing a person who may or may not have been fully responsible for their actions. In the case of Thompson vs. Oklahoma, the Supreme Court stated that the goal of retribution is inapplicable to the execution of fifteen-year-old offenders but refused to apply the ruling to sixteen and seventeen year- olds. This goes against the principle that the state should assume the role of protector for all its children and youth.

Looking at the death penalty from an open point of view, when growing up children do things on impulse and do not stop to consider the consequences of these actions. It is amazing how juveniles are not allowed to do grown up things such as voting, drinking, gambling, etc., but are able to be charged as grownups and executed sometimes even before the grown up age of eighteen.

For some in the USA, this calculated and brutal response to violent juvenile crime is not enough. As the rest of the world withdraws from using the death penalty against its children some politicians are calling for their state legislatures to lower the age for capital defendants even below the current minimum of sixteen set by the US Supreme Court. (Intro) Doing so is putting pressure on the state to absolve itself even further from its protective state. Those convicted and sentenced to death for crimes committed when they were under eighteen are not the only children affected by the death penalty.

Violent crimes scar the young family members of its victims, but children beyond death row also feel the brutal and brutalizing effects of the executions. A child who has a family member executed becomes yet another victim in the circle of violence. The message that is being sent is that the death penalty is an effective and appropriate response to killing. On average, it costs two and a half million US dollars to prosecute, keep on death row and execute a single individual.

The execution of condemned juveniles began in 1642 for a boy named Thomas Graunger who allegedly had sex with an animal. On June 16, 1944 George Junius Stinney was executed in Couth Carolina. He was fourteenthe youngest person to be executed in the USA this century. In 1998 a member of the Texas House of Representatives planned to introduce legislation under which eleven year olds who commit murder could be sentenced to death but this proposal was later shelved.

Ten years after the US Supreme Court set the minimum age for death penalty eligibility in the USA, it ruled that Oklahoma could not execute William Wayne Thompson for a crime he committed when he was fifteen and prosecutors in Oklahoma are still looking to undermine the decision. It is considered unlikely that any state or federal courts would allow an offender younger than sixteen at the time of the crime to remain under sentence of death or be executed. Their attempts to appeal to the more punitive side of the US electorate show the extent to which the death penalty has become a political tool in the USA and illustrate the lack of informed debate about the reality of the death penalty and alternative to it.

Many of their calls for a lowering of the age of the death penalty eligibility are made in response to particular high-profile juvenile crimes, such as the spade of school shootings, which occurred across the USA between October 1997 and May 1998. In general, the pressure for the death penalty to be applicable to younger defendants is part of the shift away from the goal of rehabilitation for juvenile offenders to a more punitive approach. The death penalty now resides at the extreme end of what is becoming a continuum of harsher sentencing against juveniles including life imprisonment without the possibility of parole itself a violation of the convention on the Rights of the Child.

The cases of juvenile offenders on the United States death row continue to reflect more than just the specific concerns raised by their youth at the time of the crime. Not only does it illustrate the wider characteristics of a punishment whose time has said to pass but it endorses cruelty used against the mentally impaired, and is a failure as a deterrent. Besides all of this, there is inadequate legal representation, particularly for poor defendants, and arbitrariness in sentencing, which may lead to the risk of wrongful conviction. All are results of politics, prejudice, and the power of state prosecutors to choose who will face a capital trial.

Thirty-five years ago, US Supreme Court Justice Frankfurter observed, children have a very special place in life which law should reflect. (Why Protect) Today this universal truth has been reflected in the almost worldwide acceptance of the fact that juvenile offenders should be excluded from the death penalty. We have always recognized that the essential meaning of childhood is that you will change. Its legitimate to say they should be punished, but not to say they will never change, says Stevenson.

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A Debated about Whether Death Penalty of Juveniles Is Right or Not. (2023, May 16). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/a-debated-about-whether-death-penalty-of-juveniles-is-right-or-not/

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