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NCJ Number: 98493 Find in a Library
Title: Capital Punishment for Minors - An Eighth Amendment Analysis
Journal: Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology  Volume:74  Issue:4  Dated:(Winter 1983)  Pages:1471-1517
Author(s): H B Greenwald
Date Published: 1983
Page Count: 47
Type: Historical Overview
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: After reviewing the history, present status, and likely future of capital punishment for minors, this comment argues that capital punishment for minors violates the eighth amendment, because a death sentence is always excessive punishment when imposed on juveniles.
Abstract: An historical review of the treatment of minors under common law in America during the late 18th to mid-19th century notes that adolescents were sentenced to death. An examination of the development of the juvenile justice system in the late 1890's and early 1900's finds that although societal attitudes toward young offenders changed dramatically during this period, children and adolescents continued to receive the death penalty, as they were transferred from the jurisdiction of the juvenile courts to that of the adult criminal courts. A summary of the present situation in the States with regard to capital punishment for minors indicates that most of the 38 capital punishment States provide for minors to be subject to the death penalty when they are waived to adult criminal court, although youth is a mitigating circumstance in these States. A trend analysis suggests that juveniles will increasingly be sentenced to death in the coming decades. The argument for prohibiting capital punishment for juveniles notes that for a punishment to be constitutional under the excessiveness strand of the eighth amendment, it must be both proportionate to the offense and make a measurable contribution to acceptable goals of punishment. An examination of the excessiveness strand of cruel and unusual punishment as it applies to capital punishment for minors focuses on disproportionality between the punishment and the severity of the crime, particularly as measured by the criminal responsibility of the offender. It is argued that minors are never as criminally responsible as adults, even if they have been transferred to adult court and aggravating factors have been identified. In determining whether the capital punishment of juveniles makes a measurable contribution to acceptable goals of punishment, the analysis concludes that it does not serve the goals of retribution, general deterrence, or specific deterrence. It is suggested that 18 years of age be the minimum age for a person to be given the death penalty. A total of 271 footnotes are provided.
Index Term(s): Capital punishment; Cruel and unusual punishment; Juvenile court waiver; Juvenile sentencing
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