July 19, 2004
Capital Punishment in America
Some news today on the state of capital punishment in our morally upstanding country. The issues at hand are:
1) can we kill a criminal even if there is evidence that might lead to his acquittal via DNA testing? and
2) can we kill 16 year-olds?
Right now, the answers are Yes and Yes.
The state of Georgia has decided to go ahead with tonight's execution of Eddie Crawford, who was convicted of killing his 2 year-old niece 20 years ago. The lawyer who presented the case to the Georgia Supreme Court and state parole board is Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project, an organization that has helped overturn many convictions through DNA testing. He thinks this is the first time a death row inmate has been denied DNA testing after every possible appeal was made. The Supreme Court says that there is "overwhelming evidence" against Crawford, although several samples of blood and hair have not been DNA tested. Crawford himself is an alcoholic who blacks out a lot, and he appears to have attempted to have sex with the victim's mother the night of the murder. However, check out the list of the other potential suspects in the murder: "the victim's great-uncle, who lived in the house next door, was being investigated for possible molestation of his daughter and stepdaughter, according to the brief. Across the street lived a convicted killer who was also under investigation for child molesting. The ex-husband of the niece's mother had a history of violent altercations with her and might have just discovered that the girl was not his biological child." Oh well, sorry Eddie.
Also today, diplomats, the EU, Canada, Mexico, the American Medical Association, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Jimmy Carter all lobbied the Supreme Court to end capital punishment for killers who commited their crimes before age 18. There are currently 19 states that allow 16 or 17 year-olds to be executed. The four consistently liberal Supreme Court judges have already gone on record calling the execution of underage criminals "shameful," and it's easy to see why. Here are the other countries, besides the U.S., that have executed minors over the last four years: Congo, China, Iran, and Pakistan. Not exactly the kinds of countries we like to identify with in our human rights practices. Also, the United States executed more minors than the rest of the world combined between 1990 and 2003. The Supreme Court plans to examine underage executions this fall.
See this page for statistics on the states that allow executions of juveniles, and the states that have actually executed juveniles since 1973. You have one guess at which state has done the most.