Home Take Action Innocence Links Press Releases FL Execution Information Search Get Involved Local Groups Reports DP in the News U.S. Execution Information Yes Florida, There is an ALTERNATIVE to the Death Penalty
VICTORY! On March 1, 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court set the minimum age for death penalty eligibility at 18. For details go to: https://fadpprod.wpengine.comhttps://fadpprod.wpengine.comwordpress/?page_id=3619#juvenile
Talking Points on “Juvenile Death Penalty” HB1017/SB346
Bill Summary: Death Sentence; provides that only criminals who were 18 years of age or older at the time crime was committed may be sentenced to death; amends provisions to conform; provides applicability. Creates 921.1415; amends 775.082.
EFFECTIVE DATE: Upon becoming law.
TALKING POINTS ON JUVENILE DEATH PENALTY HB1017/SB346
PASS SENATE BILL 346 AND HOUSE BILL 1017 WHICH ELIMINATE THE DEATH PENALTY FOR JUVENILE OFFENDERS. A similar bill passed in the Senate last year (2004) by a wide margin (26 yes, 12 no, 2 not voting) and was expected to pass in the House had it come to a vote.
FLORIDA SHOULD JOIN THE 30 STATES WHICH HAVE RECOGNIZED THAT SUBJECTING ADOLESCENTS TO THE DEATH PENALTY IS CONTRARY TO EVOLVING STANDARDS OF DECENCY. The majority of states do not allow the execution of those who commit offenses when under the age of 18 – juvenile offenders.
FLORIDA MUST CORRECT THE UNINTENDED LEGAL CONSEQUENCE OF THE PASSAGE OF AMENDMENT ONE. Amendment One, which passed in 2002, changed the language of the Florida Constitution. These changes could well have the effect of overruling the Florida Supreme Court’s 1999 decision which eliminated the death penalty for 16-year-old offenders. The Court relied on language of the Florida Constitution which no longer exists. Sponsors of Amendment One stated this was an unintended consequence that they would correct by legislation, and that they would raise the age of eligibility for the death penalty to 18.
FLORIDA SHOULD CONSIDER AND RESPECT RECENT ADVANCES IN THE MEDICAL AND SOCIAL SCIENCES WHICH CONFIRM THAT ADOLESCENTS ARE DEVELOPMENTALLY DIFFERENT FROM ADULTS. The social and behavioral sciences have long known that adolescence is a transitional and often difficult period of life. New imaging devices demonstrate that the areas of the brain that regulate self-control, assess risk, control emotions, judgment, intelligence and identity continue developing even beyond age18. Research has also found that most of the teenagers who commit terrible crimes experienced serious mental illness, abuse or trauma — conditions which “exacerbate the existing vulnerabilities of youth.”
The American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the American Society of Adolescent Psychiatry have adopted policies opposing the death penalty for offenders under the age of 18. They do this more from a scientific point of view than a legal or moral one.
ENDING THE JUVENILE DEATH PENALTY WOULD RECONCILE FLORIDA’S PRACTICES WITH LONG STANDING LEGAL PRINCIPLES IN WHICH PUNISHMENT IS IMPOSED ACCORDING TO THE DEGREE OF CULPABILITY OF THE OFFENDER Given that adolescents are far less mature, they are less responsible than adults who commit similar acts but have no such explanation for their conduct. Immaturity is the reason we do not allow those under 18 to assume the major responsibilities of adulthood such as military combat service, voting, entering into contracts, serving on juries or making medical decisions. Indeed, we do not let them consume alcohol until they are 21. This is not to say that competent juvenile offenders do not know right from wrong and should not be seriously punished. It is simply to say that juveniles are, by definition, less culpable than adults and should not be subject to the ultimate level of punishment. Florida has all but recognized this in practice. No juveniles have been executed since the restoration of the death penalty in1973 and there are only 2 juveniles on our death row.
FLORIDA SHOULD JOIN THE GROWING NUMBER OF NATIONS WHICH HAVE RECOGNIZED THAT THE EXECUTION OF JUVENILE OFFENDERS VIOLATES INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS STANDARDS. Executions of juvenile offenders have all but ended around the world. Only the United States, Iran and the Democratic Republic of the Congo continue to execute juvenile offenders. In the past 12 years, more juvenile offenders have been executed in the United States than in all of the other nations in the world combined. Every country in the world, except for the United States and the collapsed state of Somalia, has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which includes a prohibition of the juvenile death penalty.
FLORIDA SHOULD CONSIDER THE GROWING NUMBER OF DIVERSE AND ESTABLISHED ENTITIES THAT SEEK TO ELIMINATE THE DEATH PENALTY FOR JUVENILE OFFENDERS AND RECENT POLLS Other entities which have come out with policies opposing the juvenile death penalty include Florida’s Children First, Voices for Florida’s Children, the Florida Council of Churches, the Florida Catholic Conference, United Teachers of Dade, the Florida Psychiatric Society, the American Bar Association, the National Bar Association, the European Union, the NAACP, Child Welfare League of America, the Children’s Defense Fund, the Children’s Law Center, the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, the National Education Association, the Constitution Project, the National Mental Health Association, the Apostolic Nunciature, the Coalition for Juvenile Justice, the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops, the Episcopal Church, the American Baptist Churches USA, the Unitarian Universalist Association, and Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation.
PUBLIC OPINION SUPPORTS THIS BILL: A 2003 ABC News poll, a 2000 Houston Chronicle and a 2002 Gallop poll found that solid support for executing juvenile offenders is only around 26%.
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