Juveniles And The Death Penalty Juveniles and the Death Penalty Why its not a Deterrent, and How it can Become One Today, minors are using their age as a shield against capital punishment. I feel the death penalty is appropriate for juveniles in certain circumstances, such as murder and brutal crimes that are considered capital offenses. The rate at which the death penalty is carried out, as well as inconstancies in sentencing doesnt make it a deterrent. There should not be an age limit in all capital offenses for those who could face the death penalty and knew what he or she was doing was wrong, and a crime. Age limits do not predict when one is able to handle responsibilities.
What they do is assume one should be able to take on new responsibilities, laws, and issues. One is not suddenly capable of driving at sixteen, and not immediately given the knowledge of the voting system at eighteen. How does a specific age predict when a person knows right from wrong? By not having a minimum age for juvenile offenders in capital offenses, juveniles special rights and immunities would be taken away. These rights for juveniles exist so justice courts can provide measures of guidance and rehabilitation for the youth by using mentors in society. There have been several laws made for juveniles regarding the age they could be tried as adults in capital cases. Although, the age limit varies from state to state, and even then that age isnt always followed due to different situations in cases.
This is what I mean by inconsistencies among court cases. These laws were made because some youth who was not yet considered an adult committed a horrific crime and knew what he or she was doing when the crime took place. These juveniles perform the same malicious acts as adult capital offenders. They need to be punished for their actions just as the adults are so they know they cant get away with crime just because their age says theyre not an adult yet. Thirty-eight states and the federal government created statutes authorizing the death penalty for certain forms of murder and other capital offenses. Presently, fifteen states have chosen the minimum age of eighteen for a youth to be considered for the death penalty, four have chosen the age of seventeen, and twenty states have chosen sixteen as a minimum age.
There was one agreement among justices regarding the Constitution which doesnt say juveniles cant receive the death penalty. The Constitution, which has its roots in English Common law, is not in violation of the cases of juvenile death penalties. Before having a minimum age limit in effect, English Common law had a direct influence on the Constitution. This common law, carried over to American statutes, established the assumption that no one under the age of seven had the mental capability to commit crimes. Therefore they had no concept of mens rea, which is a Latin word meaning intent.
In English common law intent had to be proven in cases concerning offenders of ages seven to fourteen, which carried over to be an American standard. Only in cases of youth over the age of fourteen was it possible to acknowledge they had the mental capacity to perform a crime with intent. Because these juveniles crimes were so harsh, the youths case would be transferred to criminal courts and, in turn, makes it possible to sentence violent, juvenile offenders with the death penalty. The idea of whether or not the death penalty should be applied to juveniles is only possible through the transfer of juveniles out of the juvenile courts and into an adult criminal court. Only then can a guilty, violent youth be punished to the full extent for the capital crimes they have committed.
Due to inconsistencies in the laws, the death penalty is not a deterrent from keeping youth from committing crimes or fearing any serious punishments. The goal of having stricter penalties will hopefully also decrease the numbers of future generations who commit crimes. I feel that age is not a determining factor in deciding whether or not a youth should be punished for their actions. It should be based on whether or not the person had the mental capacity to know what he or she was doing was a crime and what they did was wrong. Setting a minimum age for prosecuting youth for capital crimes was an efficient way of punishing offenders in the past, but in todays society it is not. Children are killing other children at younger ages every day.
Some reports on the news have stories where a twelve year old and two other youths were charged in kidnapping a fifty-seven year old man and taking a joy ride in his Toyota. As the man pleaded for his life, the juveniles shot him to death (Vigh 1). A fifty-nine year old man out on a morning stroll in Lake Tahoe was fatally shot four times by teenagers looking for someone to scare (Vigh 2). Police officers say that they were thrill shooting. Society needs the death penalty to punish these killers. The death penalty has the potential to be a very effective deterrent if it was enforced on a regular basis. One way to look at it is, how many people would commit murder if they knew they would be killed also for their crime? If this were the case not many people would murder unless they also wanted to die.
Some setbacks in laws for juveniles are also the same as for adults, such as: time, costs, and inconsistencies in sentences. Juvenile laws need to be stricter. If there was not an age minimum and decisions were purely based on cognizance, cases could be decided on more fairly and consistently. Inconsistency in the court system also conveys a feeling of injustice to the public. As one juvenile is sentenced and put to death, then their sentence is reversed on technicalities, make me question the justice and success of this form of punishment.
Age was considered a mitigating factor in the trial of a sixteen year old , Monty Lee Eddings, and his sentence was eventually reversed. The sentencing in the trial of Roach v. Martin, which involved a mentally retarded seventeen year old defendant, was the death penalty. In the trial of Thompson v. Oklahoma, fifteen year old Thompson had his sentence reversed after claiming cruel and unusual punishment with emphasis on the 8th Amendment. While in the case of …