Capital punishment for juveniles in the United States

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Capital punishment for juveniles in the United States existed until March 1, 2005, when the U.S. Supreme Court banned it in Roper v. Simmons.

Pre-Furman history[edit]

Since 1642, in the Thirteen Colonies, the United States under the Articles of Confederation, and the United States under the Constitution, an estimated 364 juvenile offenders have been put to death by the individual states (colonies, before 1776) and the federal government.

The youngest person to be executed in the 20th century was George Stinney, electrocuted in South Carolina at the age of 14 on June 16, 1944. The second youngest person to be executed in the 20th century was Fortune Ferguson in 1927 for rape in Florida. The youngest person ever to be sentenced to death in the United States was James Arcene, a Native American, for his role in a robbery and murder committed when he was ten years old. He was, however, 23 years old when he was actually executed on June 18, 1885.[1] The last execution of a juvenile was convicted murderer Leonard Shockley, who died in the Maryland gas chamber on April 10, 1959, at the age of 17. No one has been under the age of 19 at the time of execution since at least 1964.[2][3]

Post-Furman history[edit]

Pre-Roper minimum ages for executions by state
  No capital punishment
  Minimum age of 18
  Minimum age of 17
  Minimum age of 16

Since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976[4] when the Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty did not violate the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, 22 people have been executed for crimes committed while they were under the age of 18. All of the 22 executed individuals were males. Twenty-one of them were age 17 when the crime occurred; one, Sean Sellers (executed on February 4, 1999, in Oklahoma), was 16 years old when he murdered his mother, stepfather, and a store clerk.

Due to the slow process of appeals since 1976, none were actually under the age of 18 at the time of execution.

In Thompson v. Oklahoma (1988), the U.S. Supreme Court first held unconstitutional imposition of the death penalty for crime committed aged 15 or younger.

But in the 1989 case Stanford v. Kentucky, it upheld capital punishment for crimes committed aged 16 or 17. Justice Scalia's plurality part of his opinion famously criticized Justice Brennan’s dissent by accusing it to "replace judges of the law with a committee of philosopher-kings".[5]

Justice O’Connor was the key vote in both cases, being the lone justice to concur in the two.

Sixteen years later, Roper v. Simmons overruled Stanford. Justice Kennedy, who concurred to Scalia’s opinion in Stanford, instead wrote the opinion of the court in Roper and became the key vote. Justice O’Connor dissented.

Before 2005, of the 38 U.S. states that allow capital punishment:

  • 19 states and the federal government had set a minimum age of 18,
  • 5 states had set a minimum age of 17, and
  • 14 states had explicitly set a minimum age of 16, or were subject to the Supreme Court's imposition of that minimum.

At the time of the Roper v. Simmons decision, there were 71 juvenile offenders awaiting execution on death row: 13 in Alabama; four in Arizona; three in Florida; two in Georgia; four in Louisiana; five in Mississippi; one in Nevada; four in North Carolina; two in Pennsylvania; three in South Carolina; 29 in Texas; and one in Virginia. Detailed summaries of each of these offenders can be found here.

[6]In some ways the debate over the death penalty for juveniles is a curious one. Many have pointed out that historically, few juveniles have ever been executed for their crimes. Even when there have been juveniles sentenced to death, few if any executions have actually been carried out. The United States for example, youths under the age of 18 were executed at a rate of 20 to 27 per decade, or about 1.6 to 2.3 percent of all executions from 1880s to the 1920s. This has dropped significantly when only 3 juveniles were executed between January 1977 and November 1986.

List of juvenile offenders executed in the United States since 1976[edit]

Number Date Name Age
(at Offense)
Age
(at Execution)
Sex State Method Source
1 September 11, 1985 Charles Francis Rumbaugh 17 28 M Texas Lethal injection [7]
2 January 10, 1986 James Terry Roach 25 South Carolina Electrocution [8]
3 May 15, 1986 Jay Kelly Pinkerton 24 Texas Lethal injection [9]
4 May 18, 1990 Dalton Prejean 30 Louisiana Electrocution [10]
5 February 11, 1992 Johnny Frank Garrett 28 Texas Lethal injection [11]
6 July 1, 1993 Curtis Paul Harris 31 [12]
7 July 28, 1993 Frederick Lashley 29 Missouri [13]
8 August 24, 1993 Ruben Montoya Cantu 26 Texas [14]
9 December 7, 1993 Christopher Burger 33 Georgia Electrocution [15]
10 April 24, 1998 Joseph John Cannon 38 Texas Lethal injection [16]
11 May 18, 1998 Robert Anthony Carter 34 [17]
12 October 14, 1998 Dwayne Allen Wright 24 Virginia [18]
13 February 5, 1999 Sean Richard Sellers 16 29 Oklahoma [19]
14 January 10, 2000 Douglas Christopher Thomas 17 26 Virginia [20]
15 January 13, 2000 Steve Edward Roach 23 [21]
16 January 25, 2000 Glen Charles McGinnis 27 Texas [22]
17 June 22, 2000 Gary Lee Graham 36 [23]
18 October 22, 2001 Gerald Lee Mitchell 33 [24]
19 May 28, 2002 Napoleon Beazley 25 [25]
20 August 8, 2002 T. J. Jones [26]
21 August 28, 2002 Toronto Markkey Patterson 24 [27]
22 April 3, 2003 Scott Allen Hain 32 Oklahoma [28]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Before the needles Archived 2007-06-25 at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ Best Web Archived 2007-06-25 at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ Juvenile News and Developments - Previous Years
  4. ^ Bartollas, C., & Miller, S. J. (2017). Juvenile justice in America. Boston: Pearson.
  5. ^ "Stanford v. Kentucky". law.cornell.edu. Retrieved April 5, 2016.
  6. ^ Bartollas, C., & Miller, S. J. (2017). Juvenile justice in America. Boston: Pearson.
  7. ^ The Clark County Prosecuting Attorney - The Death Penalty - #048 - Charles Rumbaugh
  8. ^ The Clark County Prosecuting Attorney - The Death Penalty - #051 - James Terry Roach
  9. ^ The Clark County Prosecuting Attorney - The Death Penalty - #057 - Jay Pinkerton
  10. ^ The Clark County Prosecuting Attorney - The Death Penalty - #128 - Dalton Prejean
  11. ^ The Clark County Prosecuting Attorney - The Death Penalty - #161 - Johnny Garrett
  12. ^ The Clark County Prosecuting Attorney - The Death Penalty - #207 - Curtis Harris
  13. ^ The Clark County Prosecuting Attorney - The Death Penalty - #209 - Frederick Lashley
  14. ^ The Clark County Prosecuting Attorney - The Death Penalty - #214 - Ruben Cantu
  15. ^ The Clark County Prosecuting Attorney - The Death Penalty - #224 - Christopher Burger
  16. ^ The Clark County Prosecuting Attorney - The Death Penalty - #455 - Joseph Cannon
  17. ^ The Clark County Prosecuting Attorney - The Death Penalty - #460 - Robert A. Carter
  18. ^ The Clark County Prosecuting Attorney - The Death Penalty - #485 - Dwayne Allen Wright
  19. ^ The Clark County Prosecuting Attorney - The Death Penalty - #512 - Sean Richard Sellers
  20. ^ The Clark County Prosecuting Attorney - The Death Penalty - #601 - Douglas Christopher Thomas
  21. ^ The Clark County Prosecuting Attorney - The Death Penalty - #604 - Steve Edward Roach
  22. ^ The Clark County Prosecuting Attorney - The Death Penalty - #609 - Glen Charles McGinnis
  23. ^ The Clark County Prosecuting Attorney - The Death Penalty - #648 - Gary Lee Graham
  24. ^ The Clark County Prosecuting Attorney - The Death Penalty - #737 - Gerald Lee Mitchell
  25. ^ The Clark County Prosecuting Attorney - The Death Penalty - #779 - Napoleon Beazley Archived February 8, 2004, at the Wayback Machine.
  26. ^ The Clark County Prosecuting Attorney - The Death Penalty - #789 - T. J. Jones
  27. ^ The Clark County Prosecuting Attorney - The Death Penalty - #795 - Toronto Markkey Patterson
  28. ^ The Clark County Prosecuting Attorney - The Death Penalty - #843 - Scott Allen Hain

External links[edit]