Tuesday, March 01, 2005

No more death penalty for 16-17 year olds

So says the US Surpreme Court in Rooper v. Simmons today. This was a topic that I have mixed feelings about and especially when it comes to teens who do really terrible wanton acts.

Justice Kennedy really gets to write all the big opinions of late on social "wedge" issues. First it was Lawrence v. Texas (eleminating sodomy laws), now this case. In both opinions, he has writen marvelously and actually semi-convinced me of his arguments by the end. Especially amazing to me was that we are the ONLY country that has the death penalty for people under 18, and that the US and Somolia are the only ones to not sign the UN treaty on the rights of children (which come up during Bush I's term, so it was us and the warlords we ended up fighting in 1993 for death penalty for minors). Naturally, Kennedy pointed out that many states have banned the practice (30 or so including the "no death penalty at all" states)

Justice Scalia of course, was miffed at the mentioning of international law and other countries. But what really gets him the most is Gingberg and Stevens' concurring opinion where they state:

"Perhaps even more important than our specific holding today is our reaffirmation of the basic principle that informs the Court's interpretation of the Eighth Amendment. If the meaning of that Amendment had been frozen when it was originally drafted, it would impose no impediment to the execution of 7-year-old children today. See Stanford v. Kentucky, 492 U.S. 361, 368 (1989) (describing the common [*63] law at the time of the Amendment's adoption). The evolving standards of decency that have driven our construction of this critically important part of the Bill of Rights foreclose any such reading of the Amendment. In the best tradition of the common law, the pace of that evolution is a matter for continuing debate; but that our understanding of the Constitution does change from time to time has been settled since John Marshall breathed life into its text. If great lawyers of his day -- Alexander Hamilton, for example -- were sitting with us today, I would expect them to join JUSTICE KENNEDY's opinion for the Court. In all events, I do so without hesitation." ROPER v. SIMMONS, 2005 U.S. LEXIS 2200

I like the idea of the constitution as molding to our times to some extent, yet I think we shouldn't stretch the 18th century document completely out of the Founders' intentions without an amendment. Like the the 2nd amendment, what does that mean? Well I would look to what they said at the time about it and history etc around it, not in light of modern-day guns and school violence.

On a side note, I welcome back my college friend and groomsman (there is no best man FYI) Anthony to the Blogosphere. He is a Linc Chafee GOPer, meaning socially liberal yet fiscally conservative/libertarian. Oh and Brandon a co-college friend and groomsman is also joining the Blogoshere, welcome to you too.

No comments: