Getting Off Death Row in Texas
On March 1, however, in a 5-4 ruling the Supremes reversed that decision, opining (in a case styled Roper v. Simmons) that "the differences between juvenile and adult offenders are too marked and well understood to risk allowing a youthful person to receive the death penalty despite insufficient culpability," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority. "An unacceptable likelihood exists that the brutality or cold-blooded nature of any particular crime would overpower mitigating arguments based on youth as a matter of course, even where the juvenile offender's objective immaturity, vulnerabilty, and lack of true depravity should require a sentence less severe than death."
The Court's decision means that 28 juvenile offenders will be removed from Texas' death row, their sentences commuted to life in prison. Still, on June 22, Gov. Rick Perry made it clear that he was not ordering the commutations by choice suggesting that, in the absence of a Supreme Court mandate, he would've been more than satisfied to maintain the status quo. "While these individuals were convicted by juries of brutal murders and sentenced to die for their heinous crimes, I have no choice but to commute these sentences to life in prison as a result of the Supreme Court ruling," he said.
Also in The Austin Chronicle:
In Our Names, May 31, 2002
Why Is Doil Lane Still on Death Row? Oct. 17, 2003
No Mercy, Aug. 20, 2004
No More Juvie Executions, March 11, 2005