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Three Supreme Court Justices publicy oppose executing teenage criminals.
August 30, 2002 9:05 AM   Subscribe

Three Supreme Court Justices publicy oppose executing teenage criminals. In a rare move, Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, and Stevens made a public statement in a delay request to state their opposition to executing someone who committed murder before the age of 18. With the Court already banning the execution of the mentally retarded this year, is this another sign of a soon-to-be next step in the abolishment of the death penalty? Or does the average American still believe that regardless of what time, when you do the crime you walk the line?
posted by XQUZYPHYR (49 comments total)

 
To be open and fair, I'll point out that I'm emphatically against the death penalty in all forms, but I'd like to add here that I'm not trying to start a generalized pro/anti capital punishment debate here.

Basically my questioning is that for those of you who are against the death penalty, does this seem like a sign to you that the country is leaning more towards abolition? And to those of you for the death penalty, do you think the mere age of a criminal is fair cause to exempt them from capital punishment?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:09 AM on August 30, 2002


"Or does the average American still believe that regardless of what time, when you do the crime you walk the line?"

As an average American, I agree with this statement.
posted by Witty at 9:10 AM on August 30, 2002


Well, at first I wanted to say that seeing this sentiment come from a conservative bench was indicative of a trend deeper than political. However, upon closer inspection, these particular justices are considered liberal.

Conclusion: We'll see what the rest of the bench thinks.
posted by frykitty at 9:20 AM on August 30, 2002


"Or does the average American still believe that regardless of what time, when you do the crime you walk the line?"

Yes.

"...do you think the mere age of a criminal is fair cause to exempt them from capital punishment?"

No.

There are 10s of millions of people in this country, and probably billions in the rest of the world, who only want to make a little good life for themselves in this world. They want to work hard, make a better life, enjoy love, and be left alone.

I'll never understand why so much attention has been given to the 'rights' of murderers who try to take that away from those people.
posted by eas98 at 9:21 AM on August 30, 2002


You speak my kinda language eas98.
posted by Witty at 9:25 AM on August 30, 2002


Teenagers can't drink or vote because they're not yet responsible enough, obviously this should translate to a different standard of responsibility for crimes such as murder. This is not difficult to grasp.

There are 10s of millions of people in this country, and probably billions in the rest of the world, who only want to make a little good life for themselves in this world. They want to work hard, make a better life, enjoy love, and be left alone.

Thanks for that nice non-sequitur. How will executing teenage criminals help these people achieve that?
posted by Ty Webb at 9:30 AM on August 30, 2002


"...do you think the mere age of a criminal is fair cause to exempt them from capital punishment?"

No.


How young would you go? The kids that killed James Bulger in England were 11 at the time... A booster seat for the electric chair as standard issue, maybe? I find capital punishment pretty backwards, but it becomes particularly twisted when it meets the societal hypocrisy that says the under-18 set must live as children until they screw up; then it seems they're on their own.
posted by holycola at 9:35 AM on August 30, 2002


The legal double-standard Ty mentions seems glaringly obvious to me, too. I'm curious, how do supporters of execution for under-18 get around that? Do you also support the right of 16-year-olds to vote?
posted by mediareport at 9:35 AM on August 30, 2002


To respond to the question at hand, YES. This is an important step down the road to abolition. It is unfortunate that the road seems to be so long in the US, though.

For facts about the progress of death penalty abolition, take a look the Amnesty International site. Pertinent to an abolition "trend" are these facts:

More than three countries a year on average have abolished the death penalty for all crimes in the past decade. Over 30 countries and territories have abolished the death penalty for all crimes since 1990.
posted by VulcanMike at 9:40 AM on August 30, 2002


As an above-average American, I'd just like to add that, from my experience, those that work toward giving 'rights' to criminals usually also work toward improving life in other ways for those "who only want to make a little good life for themselves in this world." Whether or not their methods are effective is up for debate, but I don't think the anti-death penalty movement can be considered apathetic, and against the common man.
posted by Doug at 9:56 AM on August 30, 2002


I think this is a good sign. I believe that the death penalty will be abolished in most US states sometime in the near future (places like Texas will probably hold out longer than some), I think the arguments for it are unsustainable in a world where most first-world nations have not only abolished it, but actively frown upon it and view it as something only performed in less-civilized societies. As for executing children, someone on CNN said yesterday (in regards to the Skakel trial) that the younger a criminal is, the less directly responsible they are viewed as being (the Bulger murderers, for example, did not exist in a vacuum and change overnight from completely normal children into murderers). Personally, I find the death penalty abhorrent, shortsighted, misguided and petty, and I think that executing children is frighteningly barbaric and ignorant. I'm pleased to see these comments from the Supreme Court Justices.
posted by biscotti at 10:16 AM on August 30, 2002


Doug - "As an above-average American..."

What the heck does that mean?
posted by agregoli at 10:26 AM on August 30, 2002


Conversely, the pro-death penalty and especially the 'harder on criminal' people against such luxuries as prison teachers, prison libraries, rehabilitation programs, and more funding towards half-way houses only make it harder for a felon who wants to be a productive member of society and get along and even become one of those people who "want to work hard, make a better life, enjoy love, and be left alone" after making a serious mistake in their lives. Heh, how can one "be left alone" when law enforcement is busy fighting victimless crimes and invading your privacy over something as innocent as a bag of marijuana or a tab of ecstacy?

I think the justices are rightfully feeling backwards as compared to the rest of the western world. Who knows, if we keep this up, maybe in the next 50 years or so we can be enjoying 4-5 week vacations also. Doesn't seem to hurt American companies in Europe.
posted by skallas at 10:34 AM on August 30, 2002


You speak my kinda language skallas.
posted by y2karl at 10:41 AM on August 30, 2002


Hehe.
posted by Witty at 10:44 AM on August 30, 2002


skallas, just to reply to your rant..

I am not a 'harder on criminal' person when it comes to victimless crimes, or even petty misdemeanors. But when it comes to someone making the 'mistake' of committing murder, I'm afraid I'm not particularly interested in excuses.
posted by eas98 at 10:55 AM on August 30, 2002


eas98: But when it comes to someone making the 'mistake' of committing murder, I'm afraid I'm not particularly interested in excuses.

What kinds of murder? I mean there are crimes of passion, manslaughter, gross negligence, murder one, etc. Lots of people arbitrarily draw the line at some severity of crime and decide that a person should be executed for that. I don't. I don't believe that government should have that power and that execution is not something civilized people should be doing.

On top of that comes the excellent criticisms about the criminal justice system and the very real possibilities of executing innocents. Here in Illinois DNA testing alone has freed a few death row convicts. Most famously Rolando Cruz.

Are these the things you call "excuses?"

All this for what? So Joe Sixpack can feel good about getting the bad man while tailgaiting in front of the state prison? Or so we can spread the myth of deterence? So the DA can get some political clout? Ridiculous.
posted by skallas at 11:25 AM on August 30, 2002


Is killing some one right or wrong?

Liberal answer: Killing someone is wrong.

Conservative answer: It depends on who is doing the killing, and why.

Is abortion right or wrong?

Conservative answer: Abortion is wrong.

Liberal answer: It depends on who is doing the aborting, and why.

It's starting to seem like killing isn't the real issue here.
posted by ruggles at 11:27 AM on August 30, 2002


So what you're saying is that it's "right" to spread partisan spam on MeFi?
posted by goethean at 11:39 AM on August 30, 2002


Tick...tick...tick...Still waiting for any of the "execute minors" crowd to address the legal double-standard issue. Tick...tick...tick...tick...
posted by mediareport at 11:44 AM on August 30, 2002


What conceivable definition are you attributing to the word 'spam' in this context, goethean?

mediareport: As someone who doesn't support the death penalty in general but does support equal treatment in court of teens (and younger children) and adults, yes, I do support [self-link] allowing children to vote. (And drink, and drive, and smoke, and run for office, and own land, and hold jobs, etc.) Double standards annoy me. That's why I hitchhiked a hundred-some miles to protest the voting age in 2000.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 11:52 AM on August 30, 2002


re: on doing the crime and doing the time

I read what is considered by many to be the definitive social history on the topic, Lawrence Freidman's Crime and Punishment in American History--reviewed here--and it was an eye opener, not only on the evolving concept of what a crime is but the statisitics on burglary he quotes: about the most common felony crime with something like 5% of all cases solved to the point of arrest, trial, conviction and sentencing.

Think about it--if we doubled all the local law enforcement budgets in the country, we could clear maybe 10% of the cases. Local, for burglary like most all felonies is not under federal jurisdiction.

Law and order became a a battle cry on the right during the social upheavals of the Viet Nam era. playing on very real public fears about violent crimes as well as being a politically correct euphemism for race, since, as Freidman notes, as the most disadvantaged groups are seen to be the source of criminal evil, so the hand of the law falls disproportionately upon them.

The clearance rates for crimes of violence like rape and murder are somewhat higher than those for burglary but the factt remains that there is only so much we can do and still be an open, democratic society and, realistically speaking, not that much more if we weren't. (I submit exhibit A: the Russian mafia.) For the simple fact remains, very few crimes of violence are committed with any extensive premeditation but rather on the spur of the moment. We are killed, raped and beaten most often by those we know rather than by rank strangers.

But we have a fetish for punishment as popular entertainment, along with the current mania for stories about the abduction, rape and murder of children. the gory details of which we pornographically consume before calling upon the repeal of the entire bill of rights in order to expidite the punishment--of which the gory details of what we wish this to be also are pornographically consumed--of the perpetrators. Yet, out of a population of 56 million children, around 100 are kidnapped by strangers in one year, and of these 100 only a third are younger than 14. (and that's kidnapping alone with no extra offenses...) One reason these crimes are so horrid is they are so few and so personalized--we all know the names and stories of the victims. And yet note again, that this 100 a year is half the rate of only two decades past.

We want to protect children and yet if we were to boil all the captured child killers in oil after flaying them alive on public televison, this would perhaps satisfy our entertainment needs and sense of justice but as to whether it would protect children from those yet to commit such crimes is not at all clear, especially as the sort of people who commit these crimes are lacking in any impulse control.

Crime and punishment then are sure fire vote getters but all the police we uniform, prisons we build, criminals we arrest and imprison are going to have a neglible effect on the crime rate. Especailly if we continue to choose to deny prisoners the most effective means of reducing thier recidivism--getting drug treatment and an education.

And then there is this whole thing we have going where if a person under 18 has sex with a person over 18, he or she's a child! But if he or she mugs or shoots someone--try and fry 'em as an adult!

Also, more on state sanctioned child killing here.
posted by y2karl at 12:00 PM on August 30, 2002


All this for what? So Joe Sixpack can feel good about getting the bad man while tailgaiting in front of the state prison?

Sounds fun!

Or so we can spread the myth of deterence?

I couldn't care less if the death penalty deters or does NOT deter anyone. It's not different than the fact that losing your license and possibly spending time in jail (and god forbid, killing someone) doesn't everyone from not drinking and driving.

I think the double standard for teens argument is clever, but doesn't really make much sense to me. I honestly don't think anyone here REALLY believes that 9 year olds should have access to alcohol and voting booths. Let's add abortions without notifying parents to that list. Would that be ok. Can they join the military?
posted by Witty at 12:09 PM on August 30, 2002


I couldn't care less if the death penalty deters or does NOT deter anyone.

Yet when you consider the cost of the average capital crime with the built in appeals--and this is pretty much the way the American public wants the death penalty administered because, don't kid yourself, if public sentiment in the is country swings against the death penalty, the Supreme Court will follow, hence the death penalty is adminstered the way the majority here wants it--is in the millions if not tens of millions per case, it suggests eventually the economics of the cost involved is going to bear in this argument.

And, in any case, don't kid yourself about this either--there is no way the American public would ever stomach a Chinese or Texan rate of per capita executions. We may want the death penalty but only so many per annum.
posted by y2karl at 12:24 PM on August 30, 2002


Witty: getting a 9-year-old pregnant (generally considered a prerequisite for having an abortion, with or without parental notification) would be quite the trick.

I resent your implication that my post was insincere or a troll. Disagree all you want, but don't tell me what I do or don't believe.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 12:24 PM on August 30, 2002


Witty, can you see where you're contradicting yourself? You seem to think it's silly that children be treated as adults in terms of military service and voting rights, but support children being treated as adults when it comes to responsibility for crimes.
posted by Ty Webb at 12:25 PM on August 30, 2002


If you were responding to me, goethean, what was I doing that constituted spam?

I tried to boil down what seem to be the essential liberal and conservative positions on the two most prominent (only?) life/death issues in our political discourse. Then, I stated what I thought to be the obvious: it doesn't seem like our real disagreements are about death or killing...but about something else. Since abortion (killing) is acceptable to liberals under some circumstances but not to conservatives, and the death penalty (killing) is acceptable to conservatives under some circumstances but not to liberals.

Wouldn't it be helpful to discover the essence of our real disagreements? Each side seems perfectly willing to kill human beings to achieve some goal or other, but to despise it in other circumstances. If we worked out what the goals we are trying to achieve are, and discussed those, perhaps it might be more enlightening for us all, and waste less of our time.
posted by ruggles at 12:26 PM on August 30, 2002


ruggles: Since abortion (killing) is acceptable to liberals under some circumstances but not to conservatives

The assumption that pro-choice people see abortion as killing or on par with murder is simply wrong. You are stating an opinion as a fact and using it as a strawman for some kind "real issue" conspiracy argument.

ruggles: Wouldn't it be helpful to discover the essence of our real disagreements?

You would need to discuss things with a much broader way of looking things than just liberal vs conservative for that to start. Not to mention you're ignoring the fundamental difference between criminal justice and reproductive rights. I think you're over-simplifying a tad too much.
posted by skallas at 12:35 PM on August 30, 2002


IshmaelGraves: a "9 year-old" was chosen as an example age. The fact that one couldn't get pregnant is beside the point. I also didn't tell you what you believe. I said the I don't believe that people really think that 9 year-olds should have the right to vote.

Ty Webb: I don't see it as a contradiction at all. While growing up, I found that I was always 'too old' for some things, 'not old enough' for others... not in the eyes of the law per se, but in the eyes of my parents.

TO ME, a child learns very young and can quite easily comprehend that murder is bad, against the law, etc. I don't think that concept is so complex that a child couldn't grasp it well enough to keep from acting it out. Voting, however, involves many complex factors that a child of 9 couldn't possibly (I'm sure there are exceptions) juggle well enough to make and informed decision. Most kids are too small and weak to drive before the determined age. Alcohol can cause permanent damage to a body that is still developing... so no, kids can't drink until the determined age. To me, it's not a double standard.

If you're old enough to decide that murder is an acceptable option, even in the heat of passion, you've also decided that the death penalty is an acceptable punishment.
posted by Witty at 12:41 PM on August 30, 2002


So witty, I can assume from your comments that you don't believe in the concept of statutory rape. Clearly you feel that a child has the same responsibility for his/her actions and decision making ability as an adult, which would make the idea of statutory rape pretty silly, huh?
posted by Doug at 12:58 PM on August 30, 2002


While growing up, I found that I was always 'too old' for some things, 'not old enough' for others... not in the eyes of the law per se, but in the eyes of my parents.

So now we're resorting to folk wisdom to justify executing kids? Not old enough to vote, but old enough to be executed? Come on.

Voting, however, involves many complex factors that a child of 9 couldn't possibly (I'm sure there are exceptions) juggle well enough to make and informed decision.

If you're old enough to decide that murder is an acceptable option, even in the heat of passion, you've also decided that the death penalty is an acceptable punishment.


There's the contradiction, perfectly illustrated. On the one hand you're saying that kids aren't old enough to deal with the implications of voting in their own best interests (or even knowing what their own best interests are), on the other you're saying that kids are able to deal with the implications of choosing to murder someone.
posted by Ty Webb at 1:02 PM on August 30, 2002


I'm not following your example. To put it clearly, statutory rape is committed by a person over the age of 18, not a child.

Clearly you feel that a child has the same responsibility for his/her actions and decision making ability as an adult...

No I don't. I think my previous post suggests otherwise. I think there are times when a child IS responsible for their actions, just as an adult... and times when they can NOT hold the same responsibility as an adult. That's why I don't think they should have the responsibility of voting, driving, drinking, etc. But I do think they should be held responsible for when the commit murder. To me, the offensive is too great to hold children to different standards just because they are children. They're murderers... plain and simple. Are and always will be.

Although, I can admit that perhaps I would feel differently if a member of my family was murdered by a child or my child committed murder. I dunno.

I just have a hard time imagining that there is ANYthing a criminal could effectively do to pay us back for committing murder. For me, it's easy to accept and "eye for an eye" in that case.
posted by Witty at 1:12 PM on August 30, 2002


On the one hand you're saying that kids aren't old enough to deal with the implications of voting in their own best interests (or even knowing what their own best interests are), on the other you're saying that kids are able to deal with the implications of choosing to murder someone.

Correct! I don't think murder is that difficult to comprehend. It's death. It's over. Government is far more complex and difficult to understand. It's much more involved. They don't offer classes in high-school on murder.
posted by Witty at 1:17 PM on August 30, 2002


i've always thought that justice involved a healthy dose of mercy.

'eye of an eye'? feh. now, that's a childish attitude.
posted by tolkhan at 1:19 PM on August 30, 2002


skallas: The assumption that pro-choice people see abortion as killing or on par with murder is simply wrong. You are stating an opinion as a fact and using it as a strawman for some kind "real issue" conspiracy argument.

I was not attempting to state that "pro-choice people see abortion as killing or on par with murder." I was making no assumption here but stating what appears to be rather well established by their opposition, that a human fetus is considered "alive" by many people from very early on in the gestation period, and that terminating the pregnancy amounts to killing the fetus. I have no idea how you read this to be my making an assumption of the views of pro-choice people.

As for your assertion of my attempts to begin a "real issue conspiracy argument," I really do have no idea what your talking about. Perhaps you have ideas of your own about a conspiracy here? If so, please help me out so I don't mistakenly trigger this reaction in others in the future.

skallas: You would need to discuss things with a much broader way of looking things than just liberal vs conservative for that to start.

My point was that we would need to start discussing things in a very different way. I don't know if you're simply stating it here, or whether you we attempting to get me to take a different approach to my post.

skallas: Not to mention you're ignoring the fundamental difference between criminal justice and reproductive rights. I think you're over-simplifying a tad too much.

I'm not ignoring it. I did not state that there was a single issue here. I agree with you, there are fundamental differences between Criminal justice and reproductive rights. What I did state was that both sides of the current argument(s) are willing to accept the killing of human beings to achieve their goal(s). What these goals are, and how best to achieve them is something I rarely see discussed, and does not seem to be were the argument is going. I'm am not trying to oversimplify anything.

Perhaps you were looking for more from my post than it was meant to provide? I wasn't trying to provide an answer to our problems, or to divert attention from them. I was attempting to point out that it looks like we have more problems than we seem to realize. These problems are inherent in the kind of debates we are currently having, and in the subjects we choose to address. My suggestion was that until we solves these problems, we are not likely to make any lasting headway solving the larger issues.
posted by ruggles at 1:22 PM on August 30, 2002


To me, the offensive is too great to hold children to different standards just because they are children.

Okay, so your issue here is with the nature of the crime, and not with the ability of the offender to understand the implications.

I don't think murder is that difficult to comprehend. It's death. It's over.

Yes you understand that with your adult mind. I wouldn't think it should be so hard for you to concede that a child thinks with a child's mind and simply cannot fully understand all the ramifications of what he or she is doing. That's not to excuse such crimes, of course, I think juvenile murderers should do time, with serious attempts at rehabilitation. I'm only asking you to make allowances for the fact that it is a child and not to keep pretending that a child thinks as an adult thinks.

For me, it's easy to accept and "eye for an eye" in that case.

Any time you want to join us here in the 21st century, you're welcome to.
posted by Ty Webb at 1:30 PM on August 30, 2002


For me, it's easy to accept and "eye for an eye" in that case

The key words there are "in that case". I'm not suggesting that all punishments for all crimes should be doled out with the same justification. My point is, in the case of murder, I don't find it that difficult to accept death as a reasonable punishment, penalty, whatever. I would think that removing the hands of a petty thief is unreasonable, however.

The 21st century has nothing to do with it... and just because you think differently than I do, doesn't make you better than I am. Your snide comment suggests that you think so.
posted by Witty at 1:48 PM on August 30, 2002


ruggles, you're still making no sense to me about your comparison.

To start, I'm a liberal, and your very first post is wrong to me. I don't consider all killing wrong. Self-defense, the slaughter of cattle for consumption, and euthenasia of the dying (human and animal) are all things I consider "killing" yet all three I do not object to.

As far as abortion goes, I cannot even begin to draw a comparison towards abortion in regards to killing because I simply do not consider abortion an act of killing anything- at least in the sense you were arguing. Granted, I consider the definition of "killing" as the deliberate termination of something living: yet you are greatly over-mixing the idea of killing and murder. To me, the concept of abortion as killing something is tantamount to calling a haircut killing, or to call cancer treatment killing: it's the process of destroying human bio-organic material, but to call that killing is to reach far too deep into the bounds of technicality. Shaving destroys living cells in your facial hair; do you consider that an act of murder, even though technically it would be killing a living organism?

The fault I find in your argument lies in the statement of your last post: "both sides of the current argument(s) are willing to accept the killing of human beings to achieve their goal(s). " You're trying to use that as a fact point in your argument when you appear to be the only one that actually believes it.

Your statement implies that the goal of abortion is to kill a child; this is, to me, simply ridiculous. The "goal" of an abortion is to prevent a child from being born in the first place. Abortion is the killing of cell and tissue mass that has the potential to be a self-functioning human being, not the killing of a human itself. By the prior logic, the killing of anything that reproduces would therefore be the killing of the infinite possible offspring the organism could have produced in the future.

Sorry to all for going leaps and bounds off the topic of the thread. Double apologies since I actually started it.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 3:08 PM on August 30, 2002


As someone who is very much for the death penalty (in cases of non-self defense murders and rape) I don't think we should execute people under 18. I do believe that they should spend the rest of their life in prison.
posted by owillis at 3:15 PM on August 30, 2002


Age-based divisions in the law (licensing, voting) are convenient, but don't reflect real developmental boundaries. When the stakes are raised to life or death decisions, I think the age standard becomes untenable.
posted by eddydamascene at 4:59 PM on August 30, 2002


owillis: Even 11-year old murderers who have been successfully rehabilitated? Surely your argument is as absurd as those who call for the execution of minors? Children are not tried as adults for the simple reason they are not capable of thinking like adults.

In the case of child murderers, the emphasis should always be on rehabilitation. Granted, this may not always be possible. But why straitjacket the criminal justice system on the course of justice that is most appropiate? Looking at the list of countries in the world that execute minors is very telling. Apart from the United States, the others are Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Nice company you're keeping.
posted by salmacis at 5:19 PM on August 30, 2002


The 21st century has nothing to do with it... and just because you think differently than I do, doesn't make you better than I am. Your snide comment suggests that you think so.

That's fine, but here in the future we are coming to some understanding of the differences between the way children and adults process information and weigh consequences. You are, of course, free to ignore that and even to act as if the differences don't exist. Either way, it's pretty clear that your issue is with the nature of the crime and not with determining the culpability of the offender.
posted by Ty Webb at 5:23 PM on August 30, 2002


(/snide)
posted by Ty Webb at 5:24 PM on August 30, 2002


Even 11-year old murderers who have been successfully rehabilitated?
It depends whether the child is mentally capable to know right from wrong. I'm no rocket scientist, but at 11 I knew that killing was undeniably wrong. Do you want someone capable of that roaming the streets? If they have emotional problems or some other sicko parent twisted their life, then I would believe in an exception. For someone like the kids at Columbine, they knew exactly what they were doing - and I wouldn't shed a tear for them spending the rest of their lives in jail (sadly, they took the coward way out).
posted by owillis at 5:42 PM on August 30, 2002


Apart from the United States, the others are Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

Right, but we do make executions a bit more comfortable than public shootings and limb hacking...mostly due to the innovation of leathal injections (well, electric chair too...which is more entertaining I guess).

I'm no rocket scientist, but at 11 I knew that killing was undeniably wrong.

I as well also knew that killing was wrong. But you have to understand that there's a bit more to a child's development than just knowing from right and wrong. That would work in nice environments, but in the situations of disfunctional families or violent neighborhoods that suck children into gangs...rehabilitation can set a confused child back into a state of understanding that both you and I have known so well.

Or we could just kill them...it's a tough call...
posted by samsara at 6:15 PM on August 30, 2002


At seventeen, were you intellectually ready to cast a vote? Physically and mentally capable of drinking alcoholic beverages? How about morally responsible enough to avoid killing a young woman and her two children, ages 3 and 6, so you could steal her tires?

Seriously, voting rights and drinking age? You guys ever set an apple down next to an orange?

Knowing that murder is wrong and actions have consequences is way more basic than, say, understanding democracy or being mature enough to drink responsibly. I agree that children should not be executed, but let's define children. I wouldn't call a 17 year old a child. A 17 year old is a young man, old enough to know damn well what he's doing while shooting a family. So is a 16 year old, a 15, 14, how low do we go? Pass out a test in high school homeroom, ask "Is it ever ok to murder two little girls and their mother to steal something from them?" It might be the only test ever given in high school where every answer came back the same and 100% correct.
posted by David Dark at 6:43 PM on August 30, 2002


Is killing some one right or wrong? Liberal answer: Killing someone is wrong. Conservative answer: It depends on who is doing the killing, and why.

That misrepresents things. I'm a lefty, and I would give say it depends who is doing the killing and why. For example, killing in (genuine) self-defence is acceptable. I don't think the state should execute people though.
posted by robcorr at 9:55 PM on August 30, 2002


I would favor a competency test. Not only extensive interviews and psychological profiles of the accused, but also deep investigations into their life, family, and upbringing to determine the mental age of the persons involved.

It pains me whenever a child kills someone, especially when the don't understand the implications of what they have done. At the same time, I don't believe that someone who is sixteen and performs a cold-blooded murder for a reason that he perfectly understands to be placed in the same group. Death and murder is a serious issue, and I would rather not error on the side of leniency or severity. Each case must be appropriately considered.

I really don't support the death penalty, but I understand those who do. I even understand when someone says 'eye for an eye'. They aren't primitive, they just have a totally different idea of the what the death penalty means. Some people might not even consider death really a big deal, so they might not even think twice about using it. As said, I don't support the death penalty one wight, but some do.

I'm not even going into abortion. Won't touch that one this thread.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 12:19 AM on August 31, 2002


There was a special on The Learning Channel earlier this week called The Teen Species that highlighted all the changes involved in the process of becoming an adult. Among other things, it mentioned that children and developing teenagers lack certain perceptions that adults take for granted. Teenagers seem mentally unable to associate other people's facial expressions with the correct emotion, for example. Anyway, the overall tone of the special was that teenagers are decidedly not like adults, either physically or mentally. I'm not sure that it's a step towards some inevitable death penalty ban, but I do agree with the three justices in this particular case.

I'm wondering if those in this thread taking the "child murderers should be tried as adults" position are misremembering their own childhoods. Was I the only egotistical teenager who secretly believed in his own immortality and generally behaved as if he could do no wrong?
(Heh, and has my outlook ever really changed?)
posted by tyro urge at 10:57 AM on August 31, 2002


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