Alablawg

Commentary on Alabama Law and Society

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Friday, April 28, 2006

Confession Time

Regular readers know that I have been a bit critical of Mini-Moore for his infamous op-ed piece in which he declared his intentions to reject the U.S. Supreme Court case of Roper v. Simmons. Roper made it unconstitutional to execute people for crimes they committed before their eighteenth birthday. The confession is this: I agree with Mini-Moore that Roper was a very bad decision.

What brought it to mind was this story. In essence, two race warriors were offended that some Hispanic kid would dare attempt to befoul the pure lips of white girl. These two red blooded Americans decided to teach the sorry Hispanic a lesson:

The attackers forced the boy out of the Saturday night house party, beat him and sodomized him with a metal pipe, shouting epithets "associated with being Hispanic," . . . . They then poured bleach over the boy, apparently to destroy DNA evidence and left him for dead, authorities said. He wasn't discovered until Sunday, 12 hours after the attack. The victim, who was not identified, suffered severe internal injuries and remained in critical condition Thursday.


The victim is probably going to die. When he does, one of the defendants will face the death penalty. Why one but not the other? Because one is 18, the other 17. That's right, one defendant evades death, not because he is less culpable, but because of a few days on the calendar. Same crime, same acts, different penalty for no reason other than a date.

The idea behind Roper, basically, is that kids are less capable of forethought, planning, and self control than normal adults, and thus less culpable for misconduct than normal adults. However, whether or not it makes them less culpable, the deficiencies are only true as a general matter. There are exceptions. We all know kids who are smarter than many adults.

Because it is generally true that kids have these deficiencies, for the sake of administrative convenience we set ages for driver's licenses, alcohol and other things. That does not mean no-on under 17 is capable of driving. It means that most of them are not and it would cost too much to individually examine every child who wants to be the exception.

Criminal trials, though, are as individualized as it gets. The whole thing, especially in a capital case, is about whether this particular defendant committed this particular crime and so deserves this particular punishment. If that particular defendant is too immature to deserve the ultimate penalty, the mechanisms are already in place to make that determination. There is no need for an absolute prohibition.

This story is one example of the arbitrary results of the rule. You can read Roper, or Adams (the case in which Alabama is asking Scotus to overrule Roper. The facts are here, at page three.), for another. If it is constitutional to execute an adult, I see no reason why it should not also be constitutional to execute the defendants in these cases.