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Tuesday, March 01, 2005

I got scooped by the only site that matters.

So Scott thinks he's slick, huh.

Anyway, the supreme court just ruled we can't execute individuals who commit their crimes when they are under the age of 18. This immediately raises three questions. 1) Why Not? 2) Why 18? 3) Why do they say it's 'unconstitutional?'

Our use of the death penalty is supposedly justified by our interpretation of natural law; all humans have innate rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of an inexpensive breakfast sandwich. The commission of a crime waives the rights of a criminal to liberty, and the commission of a capital crime waives the criminal's rights to life. Capital crimes are defined as murder, manslaughter due to neglect, and sometimes rape. While there may or may not be a logical separation between which rights are waived by which crimes, we do not execute petty thieves for practical reasons.

So, what changes for an individual under 18? Psychologists say that a human can understand death somewhere around the age of 5, though whether anyone can truly understand death is a philosophical point we won't argue here. The argument used by the majority opinion is that minors are more erratic due to hormones. This is true; at the age of 18, puberty starts to slack off, resulting in a more emotionally stable individual. However, this change in the individual is tiny compared to the variation between individuals, and there are many adults I would not trust with a weapon due to their inability to control their emotions. Further, I point out that most crimes of passion are committed by adults.

Minors may be less intelligent/experienced/wise, but the same argument of variation between individuals still holds, and we do not hesitate to gas friendly puppies after they bite. A juvenile who truly did not comprehend his actions would be unlikely to receive the death penalty.

So there is justification- but does execution serve a purpose? We commonly use deterrence, decrease of recidivism, and our glee at dispensing justice to support capital punishment; whatever the merits of these arguments, I do not see the benefits reduced when applied to minors. In fact, recidivism is statistically reduced because a 16 year old has a longer life expectancy than an 18 year old. SCJustice Anthony Kennedy disagrees.

"Neither retribution not deterrence provides adequate justification for imposing the death penalty on juvenile offenders," he [Kennedy] said. -- Reuters

Well, maybe not, but it's the law. He's a judge. His job is to uphold the law. If the law stated that little girls with My Little Pony figurines should be jailed, then he should jail them. I assume the legislature would correct such an oversight, or we'd have the world's most adorable cellblock on our hands.

"This is Ryan Shapiro up in the air with Sky Eye 19. We're above the state penitentiary right now- Awww, wook at the little riot breaking out! Isn't that the cutest thing? Wait- we're getting word from SWAT- the ringleaders are demanding an unmarked van, plane tickets, and beanie babies."

Question 2: Why 18? No good reason: it's an arbitrary number, and the reasons for it have already been dissected above. The justices picked it because it's a common age limit and would be accepted by the plebs without complaint. Viva Stare Decisis, you totalitarian bast-

Question 3: Is executing minors unconstitutional? No. It's not. Nowhere is due process linked to age in the constitution; the justices are making things up and we no longer live in a constitutional republic. But we knew that already, right?


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