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 current United States), an estimated 364 juvenile offenders have been put to death by states 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 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]

Further information: Furman v. Georgia
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, 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 was 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".[4]

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.

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 Rumbaugh, Charles FrancisCharles Francis Rumbaugh 17 28 M Texas Lethal injection [5]
2 January 10, 1986 Roach, James TerryJames Terry Roach 17 25 M South Carolina Electrocution [6]
3 May 15, 1986 Pinkerton, Jay KellyJay Kelly Pinkerton 17 24 M Texas Lethal injection [7]
4 May 18, 1990 Prejean, DaltonDalton Prejean 17 30 M Louisiana Electrocution [8]
5 February 11, 1992 Garrett, Johnny FrankJohnny Frank Garrett 17 28 M Texas Lethal injection [9]
6 July 1, 1993 Harris, Curtis PaulCurtis Paul Harris 17 31 M Texas Lethal injection [10]
7 July 28, 1993 Lasley, FrederickFrederick Lasley 17 29 M Missouri Lethal injection [11]
8 August 24, 1993 Cantu, Ruben MontoyaRuben Montoya Cantu 17 26 M Texas Lethal injection [12]
9 December 7, 1993 Burger, ChristopherChristopher Burger 17 33 M Georgia Electrocution [13]
10 April 24, 1998 Cannon, Joseph JohnJoseph John Cannon 17 38 M Texas Lethal injection [14]
11 May 18, 1998 Carter, Robert AnthonyRobert Anthony Carter 17 34 M Texas Lethal injection [15]
12 October 14, 1998 Wright, Dwayne AllenDwayne Allen Wright 17 24 M Virginia Lethal injection [16]
13 February 5, 1999 Sellers, Sean RichardSean Richard Sellers 16 29 M Oklahoma Lethal injection [17]
14 January 10, 2000 Thomas, Douglas ChristopherDouglas Christopher Thomas 17 26 M Virginia Lethal injection [18]
15 January 13, 2000 Roach, Steve EdwardSteve Edward Roach 17 23 M Virginia Lethal injection [19]
16 January 25, 2000 McGinnis, Glen CharlesGlen Charles McGinnis 17 27 M Texas Lethal injection [20]
17 June 22, 2000 Graham, Gary LeeGary Lee Graham 17 36 M Texas Lethal injection [21]
18 October 22, 2001 Mitchell, Gerald LeeGerald Lee Mitchell 17 33 M Texas Lethal injection [22]
19 May 28, 2002 Beazley, NapoleonNapoleon Beazley 17 25 M Texas Lethal injection [23]
20 August 8, 2002 Jones, T. J.T. J. Jones 17 25 M Texas Lethal injection [24]
21 August 28, 2002 Patterson, Toronto MarkkeyToronto Markkey Patterson 17 24 M Texas Lethal injection [25]
22 April 3, 2003 Hain, Scott AllenScott Allen Hain 17 32 M Oklahoma Lethal injection [26]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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

External links[edit]