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The Supreme Court gets it right...for some of the wrong reasons


Dec 17, 2004
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The United States Supreme Court continuing a persisting march to the left has made a correct decision forbidding the application of the death penalty to convicted killers who were under 18 years of age at the time. That this 5-4 decision was delivered in such a troubling criminal case is a testament to the independence of the Judiciary, and the beauty of our Constitutional Republic.

The Supreme Court used three main reasons for the decision to bar juvenile death sentences:

1. a consensus in state laws and practice that executing minors was indecent and outdated.

2. the U.S. was isolated with Japan and a few other rogue nations as permitting such punishments.

3. as a class those under 18 are not capable of making judgements equal to adults and should not be held as responsible.as an adult would be.

We as liberals should accept and celebrate good decisions wherever and from whomever they come, yet within them challenge what is wrong.

There clearly is not a consensus in our states concerning the proper way to deal with teenage killers. Depending on the specific case and the details alleged, public opinion and state action has varied. It is certainly evident that in cases such as the "D.C. snipers" where one of the defendants was 17 at the time, that an execution would not shock the conscious of the nation. Surely there is disagreement, and definitely not a community standard.

EVEN WERE THERE CONSENSUS, it strikes me as odd and ridiculous that the Supreme Court would outlaw a punishment because it has been abolished almost everywhere anyway. The only question should be whether it is constitutional, not whether it is commonplace. This reading of the 8th amendment is too amorphous and subject to personal opinion. Does anyone think, any of the prevailing five justices support the execution of 17 year olds, but are making a judgement based on their jurisprudence?

The United States Supreme Court should never reference laws from other countries in a legal opinion based on the United States Constitution. We should all agree that their job is to apply the facts in this case to the Constitution, not to the opinions of other judges and lawmakers abroad. Furthermore, it just happens to be that the comparisons overseas usually reference white European nations, perhaps some wealthy Asian nations, but rarely African and so-called third world countries.

That 17 year olds are less responsible than adults is probably true for them as a group. However, those committing these heinous crimes comprise a long list of exceptions. Where states have been wrong is that they have labeled at the same time an individual under 18 as being too immature to receive adult privileges and responsibilities without exception, and then deeming that s person in that class as able to stand trial as an adult.

The Court should leave it to the states to decide how to rewrite the laws to be consistent towards teenagers. : Are some 17 year olds mature enough to join the military, have sexual relationships, and also be held responsible for their bad behavior, or are they all incapable? They should be forced to allow a route for a person to declare/prove themselves fit to be an adult if they want to retain the ability to later prosecute them for an adult crime as a minor.

What they shouldn't be allowed to do is to switch the law's determination of a person's mental state and apply the standards retroactively after a crime has been committed.

Absent better written laws and consistent standards, then the Supreme Court should have ruled as it did yesterday. Even for the wrong reasons.

see the whole commentary on:

Craig Farmer

making the word "liberal" safe again!
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