Tags: Child | Executions

Child Executions

Wednesday, 20 October 2004 12:00 AM

According to U.N. reports, the only countries that executed juveniles in the '90s, in addition to us were the Congo, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. But all of them have since stopped, except us.

The trend in the states, which is one factor considered by the Supreme Court, has been toward limiting the imposition of the death penalty to adults. Only 19 states allow for the imposition of the death penalty for killers who are 16 or 17 - the number of death sentences imposed on teenage killers dropped from 14 in 1999 to two last year. Only one death sentences has been handed down this year on a teenager.

Perhaps equally important, the advent of DNA testing - and pioneering work by Barry Scheck's Innocence Project, among others - has exposed the criminal justice systems dangerous propensity to make mistakes, even in capital cases.

Death is supposed to be different, according to the United States Supreme Court, but even its procedures for reviewing capital cases have become drearily routine.

Illinois has gone the furthest, with its moratorium on executions, but other states have begun to review where things stand, as have individual justices.

Both sides continue to toss studies back and forth, but the reality remains that neither can prove that the death penalty deters, or that it doesn't, and so that debate continues to go in circles.

Four justices have already declared their view condemning the execution of juveniles - the argument this week was about whether there is a fifth vote for banning juvenile executions.

On the radio, I heard a psychologist explain that the brains of teenagers aren't fully formed, so they don't develop intent in the same way adults do. As a criminal law professor, I don't generally buy this - then again, as the mother of a 14-year-old, I'd like to believe she doesn't mean what she says.

I was all set to call it for the defendant, and switched to the local station to find out what all the traffic was about. That's when I caught up with the latest developments in the story of another 14-year-old, Byron Lee Jr. He was riding his bike at 2 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon in South Los Angeles. He's a ninth grader.

Two guys in a car, gang members who were apparently just out to score points by hitting an innocent victim, followed him and shot him. He fell to his knees and begged for mercy, they got out of the car and shot him 19 times in broad daylight, got back in the car and drove away.

Nobody has come forward with any leads. He was buried this past Saturday, just after the Court argument. Last year, when the police chief referred to the gang members as terrorists, all the politically correct types denounced him for not being duly respectful. Nobody's denouncing him anymore.

I don't know how old the gang members are who did this. Since gangs recruit young, they could well be under 18. It doesn't matter in this particular case, since California doesn't execute juveniles, but you cannot call whoever did this a child. Animals know better.

The child lost here was the 14-year-old on the bike.

That's whose mother I identify with. It was her voice I heard on the radio, her tears, the reality that her son had begged for his life in broad daylight, and people had been too afraid to come. How would I feel if I were that woman? Is that child's life worth less than one of ours?

COPYRIGHT 2004 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

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According to U.N. reports, the only countries that executed juveniles in the '90s, in addition to us were the Congo, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. But all of them have since stopped, except us. The trend in the states, which is one factor considered by...
Child,Executions
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2004-00-20
Wednesday, 20 October 2004 12:00 AM
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