Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Supreme Court Correct In No Death Penalty For Juveniles 

This is my opinion but the Wall Street Journal strongly disagrees. In their view:

No doubt most Americans will concede that the death penalty for 16- and
17-year-olds is a difficult moral question. That is why different U.S. states
have different laws on the matter, and we'd probably oppose such executions if
we sat in a legislature. But rather than defer to the will of voters as
expressed through state legislatures and at least two ballot initiatives (in
Arizona and Florida), Roper imposes the view of five justices that the execution
of 16- and 17-year-olds is both wrong and unconstitutional. As Justice Antonin
Scalia writes in a dissent that is even more pungent than his usual offerings,
"The court thus proclaims itself sole arbiter of our nation's moral standards."

Justice Kennedy rests his decision on his assertion that American
society has reached a "national consensus" against capital punishment for
juveniles, and that laws allowing it contravene modern "standards of decency."
His evidence for this "consensus" is that of the 38 states that permit capital
punishment, 18 have laws prohibiting the execution of murderers under the age of
18. As we do the math, that's a minority of 47% of those states. The dozen
states that have no death penalty offer no views about special immunity for
juveniles--and all 12 permit 16- and 17-year-olds to be treated as adults when
charged with non-capital offenses.

The editors then attack the Court for its "liberal judicial activism." But if the Justices disallow, for example, the personal property takings in the recent New London, Connecticut case then I'm sure they would interpret that decision as correcting a state's misguided view of the Fifth Amendment. I am one who likes judicial activism, as long as it take the form of supporting individual liberty.

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