WASHINGTON - January 26 - The U.S. Supreme Court's decision to review whether executing juvenile offenders violates the U.S. Constitution is another sign that the juvenile death penalty is on its way out as a public policy option, the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty said today.
"No civilized society executes juvenile offenders," said Brian Roberts, NCADP executive director. "We do not let juveniles sign contracts, serve in the military, marry, purchase alcohol or cigarettes or even vote. Yet we somehow deem them eligible for the death penalty. The double standard is appalling."
Roberts said today's announcement should mean that three juvenile offenders with execution dates in Texas will receive stays. The Supreme Court is not expected to hear arguments in the case it accepted for review until its next term, meaning no decision is anticipated until at least late 2004 or even 2005.
The state of Texas is scheduled to execute Edward Capetillo on March 30; Efrain Perez on June 23; and Raul Villarreal on June 24. Each person was 17 years old when accused of murder. Texas has been responsible for six of the past seven juvenile offender executions.
Last year, NCADP launched its Campaign to End Juvenile Executions and published a report, "Human Rights, Human Wrongs," that detailed the practice. Roberts said a number of state legislatures this year are expected to debate whether to ban the juvenile death penalty this year, including those in Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Kentucky, New Hampshire, South Dakota and Wyoming. As of this month, 72 juvenile offenders are on death rows across the U.S.
Roberts noted that two years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court banned the execution of people with mental retardation. At that time, 30 states banned such executions. Currently, 29 states ban the execution of juvenile offenders, indicating that state legislatures are moving away from the juvenile death penalty. "We are very close to seeing this issue resolved by the Court," he concluded.