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Review of Juvenile Executions in America

NCJ Number
R L Hale
Date Published
154 pages
This study examines five periods of American history during which juveniles were susceptible to a sentence of death for their crimes; these periods reflect historically distinct eras in American history regarding socially constructed views of the culpability of juvenile offenders.
Period One includes the years 1642 to 1762. This period is bordered by the first execution of a juvenile in the United States. It is presumed that social control was a primary concern during this period and that juveniles received no special consideration during this period. Period Two includes the years 1762 to 1842. During this period, Beccaria's call for abolition of capital punishment (1764) was taken up in the United States by Benjamin Rush and William Bradford. This period ended with a nationwide movement that opposed the death penalty. Period Three encompasses the years 1842 to 1922, a period of transition regarding views toward juveniles. Early in the period, minors were not given any special consideration due to their age. By the end of this period, child labor laws had been established, juvenile courts were firmly established; and the minor was now being viewed as having a level of physical, emotional, and cognitive development that was behind that of an adult. The philosophy of parens patriae was introduced during this period. Period Four covers the years between 1922 to 1962. This period was a time during which the views commonly held today about juveniles were being formed. Between 1920 and 1940, some 3,300 Americans were either officially or unofficially executed. This research examines whether minors were included in this pattern. Period Five extends from 1962 to the present. The year 1963 marks what Acker (1991) refers to as the "beginning of the modern era" of the U.S. Supreme Court's death penalty jurisprudence. Data will show that juveniles of this era have benefitted from the civil rights movement, since no one under the age of 18 has been put to death by the State since 1957; however, this study also shows that this latest change is but one of many changes in the relationship between juveniles and capital punishment. In the meantime, approximately 30 youths are waiting for the next shift in ideology as they spend their time on death rows across America. Appended data on capital offense by State, 1992; 148 references; a list of cases cited; 4 tables; 12 figures; and a subject index