ACLU Welcomes Landmark Supreme Court Ruling Striking Down Death Penalty for Juveniles

March 1, 2005 12:00 am

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Statement of Steven R. Shapiro, Legal Director, ACLU

WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union welcomes today’s decision finally declaring the execution of juveniles in the United States unconstitutional.

Fewer and fewer states authorize the execution of juveniles, fewer and fewer juries are willing to impose the death penalty on juveniles, and the rest of the world has long renounced the execution of juveniles as morally and legally unjustifiable.

Indeed as Justice Kennedy pointed out, prior to today, the United States stood “alone in a world that has turned its face against the juvenile death penalty.”

Today’s decision acknowledges that broad consensus and also recognizes that the execution of juveniles does not further any legitimate interest in either retribution or deterrence.

The Court’s decision is an important step forward. However, it also highlights the need to continue to reassess a death penalty system that has proven incapable of reliably distinguishing between the guilty and the innocent, even when trying adults.

Finally, it is worth noting that six members of the Supreme Court (the five-person majority plus Justice O’Connor) expressly upheld the relevance of international law and practice in determining which punishments are cruel and unusual under our own Constitution.

The decision is online at:

The ACLU’s friend-of-the-court brief in the case is online at: /node/3360.

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