Supreme Court Asked to End Juvenile Executions

The United States is one of a small smattering of countries around the world that still allows the execution of juvenile offenders. It is one of our nation's greatest shames. Here's the company we keep:

In the past four years, only five nations have executed juveniles, the diplomats said: Congo, China, Iran, Pakistan and the United States.

Today, Jimmy Carter, Mikhail Gorbachev, the American Medical Association and 48 countries urged the Supreme Court to end the practice when it considers one such case, Roper v. Simmons, 03-633, in the fall.

"By continuing to execute child offenders in violation of international norms, the United States is not just leaving itself open to charges of hypocrisy, but is also endangering the rights of many around the world," said a friend of the court filing Monday on behalf of Nobel Peace Prize winners, including former President Carter and former Soviet President Gorbachev. "Countries whose human rights records are criticized by the United States have no incentive to improve their records when the United States fails to meet the most fundamental, baseline standards," it said. The 25-nation European Union, plus Mexico, Canada and other nations argued that execution of juvenile killers "violates widely accepted human rights norms and the minimum standards of human rights set forth by the United Nations."

The Houston Chronicle reported in January that the decision could affect 26 on death row in Texas. (available in online archives.) Can you imagine? Texas has 26 persons on death row who were under 18 at the time of their crimes?

Here are some statistics on juvenile executions.

  • The U.S. has executed at least 366 persons for offenses they committed as juveniles (below the age of 18).
  • The first recognized juvenile execution occurred in 1642, when Thomas Graunger was executed in Plymouth, Massachusetts for committing the crime of bestiality when he was 16 years old.
  • The youngest known person to be executed in the U.S. was James Arcene, a Native American boy who was 10 years old at the time of his crime.
  • Since WWII, the youngest known person to be executed in the U.S. was George Stinney, a fourteen-year-old African American boy who was so small (weighing only 95 pounds) that the oversized mask fell off his face while he was being electrocuted by the state of South Carolina.

We reported on the case in January, here. Here's an article from the Christian Science Monitor. Please join the campaign to end juvenile executions .

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