The execution of juveniles began in 1642 with Thomas Graunger, Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts. In the 358 years since that time, a total of approximately 361 persons has been executed for juvenile crimes. (Execution of Juvenile Offenders) Juvenile execution has been an arduous debate for several years. Some say that juveniles do not have a full understanding of what they have done because they are too immature to comprehend the severity of the crime, while others say that even as a juvenile, a person is fully aware of the crime they commit and the consequences that follow it. People should stop making excuses for them because they know, just as well as an adult, that for any wrongdoing, there is always some sort of repercussion. Therefore, I believe that the death penalty has proven to be an effective method for deterring crime, no matter what the age!
The juvenile death penalty has been a complex debate for several years now. Many opponents and some law enforcement officials believe some juvenile cases can be better handled through rehabilitation and in juvenile courts, rather than in adult court with other methods of punishment. (Stannard 1) The United Nations, another vocal death penalty opponent, believes that No child shall be subject to torture or other cruel inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment. (Strater 10) ABA Networks, an organization that has done several reports on the juvenile death penalty states in an argument that
By their very nature, teenagers are less mature, and therefore less culpable, than adults who commit similar acts but have no such explanation for their conduct. Adolescence is a transitional period of life when cognitive abilities, emotions, judgment, impulse control, identity — even the brain — are still developing. Indeed, immaturity is the reason we do not allow those under eighteen to assume the major responsibilities of adulthood such as military combat service, voting, entering into contracts, drinking alcohol or making medical decisions.
Lastly, Amnesty International, also an anti-death penalty opponent believes that the death penalty is arbitrary, unfair, racially discriminatory and is also imposed on those without adequate legal counsel, such as juvenile offenders, and mentally ill and retarded. (Qtd. in Strater 10)
There are many who disagree with the notion of rehabilitation though. In an article written by Matthew Stannard, he argues that Right now minors run through the system again and again, eating court time and taxing cash-strapped rehabilitation programs without reforming. But Proposition 21, a proposal that would send kids as young as 14 to adult courts when accused of murder, changes that. Supporters of Proposition 21 say, By sending that hopeless case straight into the adult system, the juvenile receives punishment proportionate to his or her crime. The felon s friends learn that crime carries consequences. Then the juvenile system is able to focus its limited resources on the great majority of children more likely to be saved. (Stannard 3) As for juveniles having no explanation for their conduct and not fully understanding what they have done, the case of Gary Scott portrays perfectly that many teenagers know exactly what is going on, and know what they are doing. Gary Scott, called one of the callous, cold – blooded individual, was convicted of murder in 1990 for stabbing and killing Gene Thompson, a man who gave him a ride. Scott admits, in his own testimony that after stabbing Gene three or four times, he had his mind made up to kill him. He put Thompson in his trunk and drove to the woods. Scott made Thompson stand in front of him and he pulled out a gun. When Thompson began to beg for his life, Scott then shot him with a .41 caliber Blackhawk revolver. Len Brooks, Gary Scott’s prosecutor even states, “Gary Scott seemed proud of what he’d done.” (Harris)
The juvenile death penalty today, is not viewed as arbitrary nor unfair. Larry Wilkerson, the husband of Leta Ann Wilkerson who was murdered by Charles McGinnis, believes An eye for an eye. At 17, he (McGinnis) was aware of what he was doing. He knew that chance he was taking. He knew exactly what he was doing, Wilkerson said. (Pattillo) “Although the victim and the victim’s family cannot be restored to the status which preceded the murder, at lease an execution brings closure to the murderer’s crime and ensures that the murderer will create no more victims.” (Arguments for and Against the Death Penalty)
It is my own belief that juvenile offenders should be put to death if their crime is severe enough. I also believe “an eye for an eye.” After reading the case of Gary Scott, it really sent a chill down my spine that anyone could be that nonchalant about taking a life. I believe that many juvenile offenders know what they are doing, but when it comes down to it, they say they didn’t understand, trying to find some reason for what they’ve done. Something is wrong with the system when they let a juvenile who has several offenses on his record leave a detention center. If he or she is a repeat offender, they obviously do not care. That is when I start to think that these kids know what they’re doing. It’s as if they think they can play the system and get away with it and sometimes they can. I ve never had anyone in my family be murdered, and I hope that I never do, but I know that if it happened, I would want the person who committed the crime to be executed, no questions about it!
The juvenile death penalty is a debate that will go on for many years. There will probably be no end to it, because as time goes on and technology increases, crime will more than likely increase. It is said that those who favor capitol punishment believe that criminals who kill innocent victims should forfeit their own lives. Also, the death penalty, which has a deterrent effect, could probably produce a major decline in the murder rate. The death penalty is believed, by society, morally correct because it provides greatest justice for the victims family and friends, while alleviating some, but not all, of their pain. In conclusion, putting dangerous juvenile criminals to death conforms to the societal belief that punishment must be as severe as the crime that was committed.