|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
MARCH 4, 2004
|CONTACT: National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty
David Elliot, 202-543-9577, ext. 16
Two States Abolish Juvenile Death Penalty
WASHINGTON - March 4 - Two states this week abolished the juvenile death penalty, bringing to 31 the number of states that do not execute youthful offenders for crimes committed at the age of 16 or 17.
South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds and Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal each signed their state's legislation on Wednesday, while a similar bill is advancing in New Hampshire.
The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty targeted South Dakota and Wyoming as part of its Campaign to End Juvenile Executions. Next term, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether executing people for crimes committed before the age of 18 violates the 8th Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
Despite the recent developments, Texas has scheduled the execution of five youthful offenders, four of whom are Latino and one of whom is African American. The past six youthful offenders executed by the state of Texas all have been African American. (Two of the Texas youthful offenders scheduled for execution, Edward Capetillo and Anzel Jones, have been granted stays.)
"The recent successes in Wyoming, South Dakota and New Hampshire show that momentum is with us," said Brian Roberts, executive director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. "When the U.S. Supreme Court banned the execution of people with mental retardation, 30 states outlawed this practice. Now 31 states outlaw the juvenile death penalty. We're well on our way to sweeping the juvenile death penalty away to the dustbin of history, where it belongs."
Roberts expressed alarm at the number of youthful offender executions scheduled in Texas. "Texas is out of bounds," he said. "Not only is Texas' death penalty system among the nation's weakest when it comes to clemency review, quality of trial counsel and appellate review, Texas is bucking the national trend when it comes to executing youthful offenders. In legal parlance, this makes Texas an outlier state."