.- The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) applauds the Supreme Court’s decision to revoke the death penalty for juvenile offenders and is pleased that the United States has now “joined the rest of the world in outlawing (these) executions.” The Supreme Court decided March 1 that the Constitution forbids the execution of offenders who were under age 18 when they committed their crimes. The court said the executions violate the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
The USSCB, which for 25 years has been calling for an end to the use of the death penalty, “is very encouraged that the United States Supreme Court has recognized that executing juvenile offenders is indeed cruel and unusual,” said Bishop Nicholas Diaries, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Policy.
“This ruling affirms the position held by a broad cross section of religious denominations, child advocacy groups, and legal and medical organizations,” Bishop Diaries said.
The decision is a significant change from the Supreme Court ruling 16 years ago, which upheld the execution of juvenile offenders.
The 5-4 Supreme Court decision ends a practice that was still used in 19 states and throws out the death sentences of 72 juvenile offenders.
The ruling also had an instant effect on notorious teen killer, sniper Lee Boyd Malvo, who was 17 when he joined John Allen Muhammad in a 10-person killing spree in October 2002. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole for two of the killings.
Yesterday’s ruling is being hailed by abolitionists as a huge step toward global abolition for the death penalty for minors.
While juveniles are still executed in some countries, a Reuters report stated that the United States was the only one that still gave official, legal sanction to the death penalty for juvenile offenders.
“While we continue to work to oppose any use of the death penalty for what it does to human life and how it diminishes our society, we are pleased that the Supreme Court has confirmed that standards of decency have evolved and that the U.S. has joined the rest of the world in outlawing the executions of those who commit capital crimes as juveniles,” Bishop Diaries said.
Using the death penalty against offenders who were under 18 when they committed a crime is banned by the United Nation's Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by 192 countries, that is, every nation except the United States and Somalia.