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Death by the State: the Ultimate Injustice

In 2005, the US Supreme Court decided in Roper v. Simmons that the execution of a defendant who committed a murder at age 17 or younger was cruel and unusual punishment and thus unconstitutional. This decision was based on three differences between juveniles and adults: juveniles suffer from an impetuous lack of maturity and responsibility they are more susceptible to negative influences; and lack the independence to remove themselves from bad situations and a juvenile’s character is less formed than an adult’s.

But surely, when the Supreme Court made that decision, they didn’t assume that all juveniles shared those immature qualities. All the justices would need to do is visit a home school home and speak with the children to understand that age is not strictly the cause of impetuous, negative mentalities. And in fact, the court admitted that their designation of the age of 18 as being an adult was arbitrary. A 17 can be more mature than an 18-year-old in all respects, making the designation frivolous.

This ignores another question, however: aside from strict sociopaths, aren’t all murderers committed by people with impetuous, negative mentalities? In a sense, maturity, by definition is the ability to overcome impetuous, negative mentalities in order to make the morally, socially-acceptable decisions. All murderers (save the Hannible Lecter types) are immature.

Really, this argument raises another question: is the death penalty ever an appropriate solution? If youths are immune from capital punishment for their heinous acts of violence because they lack a mature mind, shouldn’t that apply to everyone who commits a crime? All violent criminals demonstrate the lack of mental stability in a typical adult, so why should it matter that the criminal is over a certain age? His brain isn’t.

This reasoning, coupled with the fact that it is impossible to be 100 percent sure of a conviction, the criminal justice system should due away with the death penalty altogether. It is illogical, unjust, immoral, and costly and unfit for a free society.

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