FUMO PRAISES U.S. SUPREME COURT BAN ON EXECUTING JUVENILES
HARRISBURG, March 1, 2005 The United States Supreme Court did the right thing today by ruling unconstitutional the use of the death penalty on people who were under 18 years of age when they committed their crimes, state Senator Vince Fumo (D-Philadelphia) said.
Pennsylvania is one of 19 states that permitted the execution of minor criminals.
"If a society has no way of dealing with a child except to kill him or her, that is a horrible admission of failure," said Fumo, who generally opposes the death penalty in all but a few rare circumstances.
Fumo noted that most countries banned the practice long ago, with only several harsh regimes in the Middle East and Asia still permitting the death penalty for juveniles countries such as Iran, China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
"I dont believe those are the countries we want to mimic in our approach to rehabilitating child criminals, Fumo said.
On Dec. 10, 1991 Fumo had argued on the floor of the Senate for a prohibition against executing those under 18. The effort to include such a provision in a bill being debated at the time failed.
In that 1991 debate, Fumo pointed out that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which had been adopted by the United Nations in 1976, called for the death penalty not to be administered to persons whose crime was committed while they were under age 18. Other highly regarded national and international organizations had done the same.
"How can we in Pennsylvania ignore the rest of the civilized world....and agree to kill children under 18?" Fumo asked then on the floor.
In his opinion today, Justice Anthony Kennedy cited the fact that most other countries and even most states disallow the practice, and said world opinion of the U.S. should matter on an issue of this nature.
"I thank the Supreme Court for bringing Pennsylvania into the 21st century, where the majority of the 50 states and other countries have already been on this issue," Fumo said. "I am pleased that the high court affirmed my position, even though it was many years later. Thankfully, we have not actually executed any children during that time."