Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Globally Tested

The Supreme Court ruled today in a 5-4 decision that the execution of killers under 18 is unconstitutional, citing the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment. This ends the practice in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisana, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, Texas and Virginia.Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, cited the “overwhelming weight of international opinion against the juvenile death penalty.”

The Supreme Court's decision today marks an important step forward for the United States. By ending the practice of executing juveniles, the U.S. has drawn an important distinction between itself and regimes such as Iran, Pakistan, China, and Saudi Arabia. This distinction is all the more important given the ongoing torture scandals that continue to sully the name of the U.S. in the international community, and which have given the critics of the United States the opportunity to liken the U.S. to the countries and practices it so regularly denounces.

However, the usage of international opinion by the majority to support its argument is troubling. Writing in The New Republic only days before the November 2004 election, Jeffery Rosen stated that, in the event of a Kerry win, liberal justices would be “more likely to turn to international law to define the meaning of U.S. constitutional guarantees, such as due process, cruel and unusual punishment, and equal protection. If taken too far, the new internationalism could ignite an entirely new culture war for the twenty-first century.” Although Bush was reelected, Rosen's concerns are still valid today. Reigniting, or further exacerbating, the current culture war can only spell disaster for a Democratic Party that is already on the defensive in the American cultural arena.


At 4:35 PM, Blogger Seb said...

What a terrible decision it was to remove execution of teens. It removed Fair and Equal Under the Law in one very nice and underhanded blow. I understand that a 16 or 17 year old isn't usually fully developed but that consideration should be taken at the time of indictment not sentencing. The law has created different categories for when one person is responsible for the death of another. As shown here we already have ways to decide what the crime was and the appropriate action to take with it. There's no need for bench legislation. If a person, ANY person, is found guilty of first degree murder they should be able to receive the whole range of available punishments.
Our system already has a way of differentiating between the mature and the immature for crimes, its called they juvenile justice system. They created this different set of rules for juveniles because (does they sound familiar) they recognize that a juvenile's mind is not the same as an adult and that they require a different set of guidelines to rehabilitate (read: "punish", because I assure you I've visited the Juvenile Detention Center in Montgomery County and its certainly not rehabilitating) these youths from the crimes they've committed. If the Supreme Court wanted to say "henceforth a juvenile who takes life will be tried under the juvenile penal system" that would be one thing, but thats not what they did; they created an unnecessary age discrimination.
The Supreme Court has further fouled up an already (thanks to their recent decisions) confusing system of determining punishments thats by being self-contradictory. In their decision Blakely v. Washington the Supreme Court said that judges cannot impose harsher penalties based on aggravating factors not tried before a jury. Essentially the judge can't second guess a jury who they think was too lenient. Logically, the converse should be true: a judge can't due to mitigating factors not tried by a jury reduce penalties the jury deemed appropriate. Similarly in Ring v. Arizona they ruled that a jury is the only group qualified to determine if someone should be put to death. By declaring all juvenile execution unconstitutional they are effectively contradicting their own rulings (because it was this very same court that made both decisions) and violating the 14th Amendment rights of those over 18 by not granting them equal protection under the law as 16 and 17 year olds.
Now I'm not arguing that the death penalty is good or bad, just that with all the problems it already has (unequal application especially against blacks and latinos, which is a big deal to me being one of those) did the Supreme Court really need to create further unequal application? If they wanted to abolish the death penalty, fine, thats a different issue and I'm more than willing to expound my views on that, but my argument is not on morality, its on consistency. With that in mind, if you're gonna respond to me, please reply based on consistency not morality, since thats like bringing water balloons to a snowball fight.
On a lighter note (or not, just more twisted) I now plan to create an army of juvenile assassins who will kill targets that displease me. If you're interested in being the mother of at least one of these children (who shall of course be of my seed, though sex is unnecessary) drop me a line.

At 12:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that age discrimination is different from a recognition of the cognative difference between adults and children. This country does not give the right to vote to those under 18, and in most states, the right to drive a car is restricted to those over 16. In an argument that has been stated many times before, how can we hold a juvenile responsible for murder if we cannot trust him to elect a representative to Congress? If you want to let all citizens vote and drive, regardless of their age, that is one thing. But to put certain restrictions on teenagers based on their age, and then to argue that it constitutes age discrimination when they are granted special privileges is hypocritical.

At 6:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

stop bein a retard


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