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U.S. bans juvenile executions

By Kristopher A. Nelson in

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It’s nice to join the international community on occasion: Supreme Court Abolishes Juvenile Death Penalty

Some interesting snippets from the ruling include:

Neither retribution nor deterrence provides adequate justification for imposing the death penalty on juvenile offenders, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the 25-page opinion. “It is proper that we acknowledge the overwhelming weight of international opinion against the juvenile death penalty, resting in large part on the understanding that the instability and emotional imbalance of young people may often be a factor in the crime.”

The article from Reuters goes on to note:

The United States was the only country in the world that still gave official sanction to the juvenile death penalty, Kennedy said in his ruling.

He noted the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, which prohibits the juvenile death penalty, has been ratified by every country except Somalia and the United States.

Only seven countries other than the United States have executed juvenile offenders since 1990, he said. They are Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo and China.

But we were in such good company!

On the other hand, there were four dissenters, including the Chief Justice:

Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented.

“I would not substitute our judgment about the moral propriety of capital punishment for 17-year-old murderers for the judgments of the nation’s legislatures,” O’Connor said.

Scalia said the court’s interpretation of the U.S. Constitution should not be influenced by other nations.

Yes, of course the courts should (1) defer entirely to the legislature and (2) ignore the rest of the world. That will ensure that the Judicial Branch remains a check on the other two branches as intended by the U.S. Constitution and it will also ensure we remain in a leadership role in the world.