Friday, October 15, 2004
The death penalty for juveniles: I support the death penalty not because it necessarily has a deterrent effect, but because it says something about how much we as a society value innocent life.
For that reason, I don't believe that a free pass should be given to juveniles who commit violent murders. While I'm concerned that the Supreme Court may, in the words of Justice Anthony Kennedy, impose a ban that would lead gangs to use 16- and 17-year-old "hit men," what is even more troubling is the trend by some liberal members of the Court to submit the U.S. Constitution to a "global test."
He [former U.S. Soliciter General Seth Waxman] also urged the court to act based on a "worldwide consensus" against the death penalty for juveniles, noting that, except for the United States, all 110 countries that retain capital punishment do not apply it to those younger than 18.
States that permit it "are not just alone in this country, they are alone in the world," he said.
On this point, Kennedy appeared to sympathize with Waxman, asking Missouri state solicitor James Layton, "There seems to be a very substantial demonstration that world opinion is against us. ... Does that have a bearing on what's 'unusual' " punishment?"
The Justices' job is to interpret the Constitution and laws passed by Congress and the states -- not to weigh international public opinion. It's the job of the legislature to make laws and -- if they feel it's necessary -- weigh the current state of international public opinion.
For those who feel, like Waxman, that something magical happens to the mind as you turn 18 years of age, I suggest reading this short amicus brief [Adobe Acrobat required]. The brief contains just a few short summaries of cases of brutal killings by minors in the state of Alabama.