“Neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without possibilty of release shall be imposed for offenses committed by persons below eighteen years of age….” Convention on Rights of a Child (Article 37a)
The actual execution of juvenile offenders sentenced to death began in 1642 by Thomas Graunger, in the Plymouth colony of Massachusetts. In over three and one-half centuries since that time, at least 362 juvenile offender executions have been imposed by 38 states and the federal government, and they constitute 1.8% of the total of about 20,000 confirmed American executions since 1608.
Eighteen of these 362 executions for juvenile crimes have been carried out during the current era (1973-2001). They constitute only 2.4% of the total of 749 executions during this period (as of 12-31-2001), an execution rate somewhat higher than had been experienced prior to 1973. All but one of these executed juvenile offenders were age 17 at the time of their crimes, with only Sean Sellers (Oklahoma) being age 16.
Currently, 38 states and the federal government (both civilian and military) have statutes authorizing the death penalty for capital crimes, almost all of which are forms of murder. Of those 40 death penalty jurisdictions, 17 jurisdictions (42%) have expressly chosen age 18 at the time of the crime as the minimum age for eligibility for that ultimate punishment. Another 5 jurisdictions (13%) have chosen age 17 as the minimum. The other 18 death penalty jurisdictions (45%) use age 16 as the minimum age, either through an express age in the statute (6 states) or by court ruling (12 states).
The use of the death penalty for crimes committed under the age of 18 is
banned under international human rights standards, yet some countries still permit or practice the execution of juvenile offenders. Such executions are few compared to the worldwide total number of executions. However, the fact still remains that nearly a...