March 31, 2004
Lawyers Oppose Death Penalty for Juveniles
The Philadelphia Bar Association's Board of Governors is asking the Pennsylvania General Assembly to approve Senate Bill 15 or any similarly worded Legislation which would prohibit the imposition of the death penalty in Pennsylvania on any person under the age of 18. In taking this stand the Philadelphia Bar Association joins the American Bar Association and the Pennsylvania Juvenile Court Judges Commission in opposing capital punishment sentences on juveniles.
According to Bar Association Chancellor Gabriel L.I. Bevilacqua, "this Resolution is consistent with our longstanding position on the death penalty and it simply embraces the view of the rest of the free world." The Bar Association's Resolution, approved at the most recent meeting of its governing body, notes that the United States is the only country in the world that permits, as a matter of law, the execution of juveniles. It cites the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which prohibits the execution of juveniles as well as research by developmental psychologists and brain researchers which "show that adolescents are not as fully developed as adults in those areas that bear on their blameworthiness." The Resolution states that "the criminal justice system can already severely punish juveniles for capital crimes, thereby fulfilling society's interest in imposing penalties that are proportional and just."
Pennsylvania currently has two juveniles on death row, but the State has not executed a juvenile since 1916. The latest action by the State's largest local bar association follows a 1997 Philadelphia Bar Association Resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty "until such time that fairness in its administration can be ensured."
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