By the end of 1987, the execution of murderers who were children at the time of the offense -- i.e. under the age of 18 -- had been abandoned in all developed countries, except for the United States. Many western democracies severely criticized the United States for this practice.
In 1988, the U.S. Supreme Court banned the execution of murderers who were under the age of 17.
In 2005-MAR, the court reduced the cutoff age so that 16 year-old offenders could not be sentenced to be executed. As in most rulings related to ethics and morality, the vote was close: 5 to 4.
Quoting author Rollin Perkins, Judge Michael A. Wolff of the Supreme Court of MIssouri, wrote:
But they have evolved faster in some countries than in others.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the American Convention on Human Rights, and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child prohibit the execution of a person who has committed a crime while a child (under the age of 18). The United States Senate ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1992, conditional on the continued right of individual states to impose the death penalty on juvenile murderers -- those aged 16 or 17 at the time that the crime was committed. The U.S. is the only country in the world to have not ratified the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of the Child, except for Somalia which does not have a central government.
According to Amnesty International USA:
As of 2004-MAR, only six countries had laws on the books that allow the execution of juvenile offenders: Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United States. Yemen had enabling laws in the 1990's, but has since abolished them.
In its Simmons v. Roper ruling in 2003-AUG, the Supreme Court of Missouri reported that officially sanctioned executions of juvenile murderers have occurred during the previous few years only in Iran, The Republic of the Congo, and the United States. Of all the countries of the world, the U.S. was the main killer of juvenile offenders. Of the last seven such executions worldwide, five occurred in the United States -- (mainly in Oklahoma, Texas, and Virginia). 2,3
Capital crimes in biblical times:
Some of the 613 laws in the Mosaic Code of the Bible call for the death penalty for those guilty of a variety of behaviors: working on Saturday, committing adultery, being a sorcerer, following a different religion, religious proselytizing, performing a séance, engaging in incest. Also:
were to be executed. Most were to be killed by stoning. However prostitutes who were daughters of a priest were to be burned alive. None of the above laws mentioned the perpetrator's age. So a person under 18 might be executed for engaging in one of these behaviors.
There are some offences aimed specifically at juvenile offenders in which the Bible required them to be be executed: cursing parents, hitting a parent, or being stubborn or rebellious. Sometimes, a death penalty implemented on an adult guilty of a crime would also require his or her children to be executed, even though they were innocent of any crime. The sins of the fathers would be translated to the children. Fortunately, with the exception of Christian Reconstructionism, no significant religious group in North America advocates the implementation of biblical standards for execution.
Opposition by religious groups to the death penalty for juvenile offenders:
Roman Catholic and Protestant churches have come a long way from their policies during the late Middle Ages and Renaissance when they executed tens of thousands of "witches" and other heretics. There are still some extreme Fundamentalist Christian individuals and groups in North America who advocate that sexually active homosexuals and followers of the Wiccan religion be executed by the state. However, almost all other faith groups have now abandoned all, or almost all, of the the biblical death penalties.
Generally speaking, most conservative faith groups support the death penalty for those found guilty of murder; some support the execution of juvenile murderers. Most liberal religious groups oppose the death penalty for all crimes. Mainline denominations and their membership take various positions.
Religion Link reported that:
In 1989, a number of mainline and liberal faith groups filed briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Stanford v. Kentucky. They supported two juvenile murderers: Kevin Stanford who was about 17 years, 4 months of age at the time he committed murder, and Heath Wilkins who was about 16 years, 6 months of age. Both had been sentenced to be executed.
Opposition by secular groups to the death penalty for juvenile offenders:
Also in 1989, the following groups filed briefs during Stanford v. Kentucky indicating their opposition to the death penalty for juvenile offenders: The American Psychiatric Association, Child Welfare League of America; National Parents and Teachers Association; National Council on Crime and Delinquency; Children's Defense Fund; National Association of Social Workers; National Black Child Development Institute; National Network of Runaway and Youth Services; National Youth Advocate Program; and American Youth Work Center; American Society for Adolescent Psychiatry and American Orthopsychiatric Association; Defense for Children International -- USA; National Legal Aid and Defender Association; and National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers; Office of Capital Collateral Representative for the State of Florida; and International Human Rights Law Group. 2
Since 1989, the following groups have issued statements in opposition to the death penalty: Child Welfare League of America; National Parents and Teachers Association; National Council on Crime and Delinquency; Children's Defense Fund; National Association of Social Workers; National Black Child Development Institute; National Network of Runaway and Youth Services; National Youth Advocate Program; and American Youth Work Center; American Society for Adolescent Psychiatry and American Orthopsychiatric Association; Defense for Children International -- USA; National Legal Aid and Defender Association; and National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers; Office of Capital Collateral Representative for the State of Florida; International Human Rights Law Group. 2
This topic is continued in another essay
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