High Court Bans Death Penalties for Juveniles

MARCH 2, 2005 - Posted at 7:43 a.m. CST

LITTLE ROCK, AR - A ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday has found that the Constitution forbids the execution of killers who were under the age of 18 when they committed their crimes.  The court said the practice would violate the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

While Arkansas has a law that would have allowed such executions, it had no such inmate on death row at the time of the court's ruling.

Arkansas has sent nine prisoners to death row for killings while they were between the ages of 18 and 22.

Meanwhile, the state sponsor of legislation to prohibit the state from executing juveniles under 18 welcomes the high court's ruling.  State Senator Steve Bryles of Blytheville says his contention all along has been that juveniles are not developed enough mentally to fully understand the consequences of their actions.  Bryles' bill previously passed the Senate and is awaiting action in the House Judiciary Committee.  Bryles says he'll get together with co-sponsors to determine whether to proceed with his bill or drop it in light of the Court's 5-to-4 decision yesterday.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)