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If its proper morally to execute a duly convicted 18-year-old murderer why should a 17-year-old who commits a similar offense be spared Its a question at least four of the Supreme Courts justices should ask themselves as they continue to push for the abolition of capital punishment for juvenile offenders Justices John Paul Stevens Ruth Bader Ginsburg Stephen Breyer and David Souter this week formally stated their opposition to the execution of criminals under the legally arbitrary age of 18 Writing for the minority in a 5-4 dissent Justice Stevens wrote that capital punishment applied to those under 18 is a relic of the past that is inconsistent with evolving standards of decency in a civilized society We should put an end to this shameful practice Justice Stevens argued that those under 18 have poor impulse control and are not fully culpable morally for their actions He added that the death penalty served no deterrent purpose when it comes to juvenile offenders though he apparently forgets that by removing such individuals from the Earth they are thereby rendered very much deterred from committing mayhem in the future Justice Stevens likened the execution of a juvenile murderer to that of a mentally retarded or incompetent person in effect arguing that at age 18 a sudden moral and intellectual awakening occurs that opens the eyes of the young murderer to the foul nature of his deed Its an absurd proposition on its face and should be read more correctly as the leading edge of a more general attack upon capital punishment itself Once the execution of 17-year-old murderers is proscribed on the basis of evolving standards of decency it wont be much of a stretch to extend the reprieve to all those found guilty of capital offenses Justice Stevens opinion was co-signed by the courts other three liberal jurists whose watery-eyed views on the subject suggest a
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