NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Executing Younger Killers

August 22, 2000

Should those who committed murder prior to turning 18-years-old be executed later in life? That is the subject of a soul-searching debate underway throughout the nation.

  • Four people who committed murder when they were 17 have been put to death this year in the U.S. -- and one more is scheduled to die in Georgia on Thursday.
  • Eighty condemned young offenders are now on death rows awaiting execution -- more than at any other time since the ban on capital punishment was lifted in 1976.
  • While 23 of the 38 states that have the death penalty permit the execution of juvenile offenders, only seven have actually carried out such executions since 1976 -- Georgia, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.
  • The U.S. is one out of only seven countries in the world that permits such executions, according to the State Department.

The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the death penalty for 16- and 17-year olds by one vote in 1989. The previous year the court had ruled that executing those under 16 was cruel and unusual punishment.

Source: Sara Rimer and Raymond Bonner, "Whether to Kill Those Who Killed as Youths," New York Times, August 22, 2000.

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