Executing Minors Places U.S. in Dubious Company

From Associated Press

Since 1973, 17 men have been executed in the United States for crimes committed when they were juveniles, including four this year, according to the Justice Department.

A new report by the department’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention said 74 other offenders are on death row for crimes committed before they turned 18.

Of the 38 states that have the death penalty, 23 permit the execution of offenders who committed capital crimes before turning 18. Such policies were upheld in a 1988 Supreme Court ruling.

The United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child states that crimes committed by a juvenile should not result in execution or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.


President Clinton signed the convention in 1995, but the Senate has not ratified it. According to the Justice Department, the United States and Somalia are the only U.N. members who have not ratified the accord.

U.S. critics opposed the convention on several grounds, saying it would encourage government interference in family matters and override a state’s right to impose the death penalty for murders committed by minors.

Amnesty International says the United States is one of six countries that have executed prisoners since 1990 who were under 18 at the time of their crime. The other countries, according to the human rights group, are Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.