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Court Refuses Teen Execution Case

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Court Refuses Teen Execution Case

Mon Oct 21, 1:06 PM ET

By GINA HOLLAND, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - A bitterly divided Supreme Court refused Monday to consider ending the execution of killers who were under 18 when they committed their crimes.

Four justices said the court should continue a reexamination of the death penalty begun in earnest last year. The court recently abolished executions for the mentally retarded.

The court passed up a chance to reopen the question of whether executing very young killers violates the Constitution's ban on "cruel and unusual punishment." Currently, states that allow the death penalty may impose it on killers who were 16 or 17 at the time of their crimes.

"The practice of executing such offenders is a relic of the past and is inconsistent with evolving standards of decency in a civilized society," wrote Justice John Paul Stevens, joined by Justices David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer. "We should put an end to this shameful practice."

Breyer also wrote separately to say the court should consider a second death penalty case that asks whether it was unconstitutional to leave inmates for decades on death row. He said Florida inmate Charles Foster has spent more than 27 years in prison and "if executed, Foster, now 55, will have been punished both by death and also by more than a generation spent in death row's twilight. It is fairly asked whether such punishment is both unusual and cruel."

Justice Clarence Thomas (news - web sites) disagreed, writing his own opinion to say that Foster "could long ago have ended his anxieties and uncertainties by submitting to what the people of Florida have deemed him to deserve: execution."

Justices refused without comment to consider Foster's case, as well as the case of a Kentucky man sentenced to death for abducting, sodomizing and killing a gas station attendant when he was 17. The body of the 20-year-old victim was left sprawled over the rear seat of her mother's car, with her jeans and underwear pulled to her ankles. She had been shot in the face.

Prosecutors said Kevin Nigel Stanford bragged about what he and two other teenagers had done.

Stanford, now 39, has been on death row since 1982. In 1989, the high court used Stanford's case to uphold juvenile executions.

Only the United States and a handful of other countries allow execution of juvenile killers, and Stanford's lawyers argued that such executions violate not only the Constitution but an international treaty signed by the United States.

Neither this case nor last term's landmark ruling on the mentally retarded address the constitutionality or morality of the death penalty as a whole.

Like the retardation question, the issue of juvenile killers turns on the individuals' capacity to understand their situation, and their level of culpability. Also like the retardation question, this one questions whether the country has changed its mind about what kind of punishment is appropriate.

The court relied heavily on the actions of state legislatures in deciding to ban executions of the retarded. On that issue, the court said the large number of states that had acted on their own to ban such executions showed that the nation no longer supported the practice.

"In the last 13 years, a national consensus has developed that juvenile offenders should not be executed," Stevens wrote in the dissent.

The court's refusal to hear the case was expected. A delay seemed likely because it would give more state legislatures a chance to do their own reexamination of the practice, much as they did with the retardation issue.

Currently, 16 of the 38 states that allow the death penalty prohibit it for those under 18. The federal government also prohibits the practice for juveniles prosecuted in federal court. Two states, Montana and Indiana, have enacted their prohibition laws since the court last considered the Stanford case in 1989.

"The evolving norms of decency have come to the point where we as a country have decided its no longer appropriate to execute the mentally retarded. I think the time has also come to reassess whether it is no longer appropriate to execute our children," said Margaret O'Donnell, a lawyer for Stanford.

The case is Stanford v. Parker, 01-10009.

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Originally posted by dnice35

I think if your old enough to kill someone, then you are old enough to be fried yourself....

would you say this is this was your nephew, cousin, son, etc being put on trial ?

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Originally posted by sassa

would you say this is this was your nephew, cousin, son, etc being put on trial ?

Fuck it, If they do something that bad that would sentence them to death, then be it. anyways why spend money rehabilitaing these scum bags. Lets save the taxpayers some money, execute them and get it over with.

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