March 3, 2005

EXTRA! EXTRA! It's not OK to execute kids!

Gelf's legal correspondent on the Fab-Nine's decision to add minors to the list of people we can't kill.

Aaron Zamost

Only three years after the U.S. Supreme Court decided, hey, it might be wrong to execute the mentally retarded, on Tuesday the court declared it was also unconstitutional to execute convicted murderers who were minors when they committed their crimes (Roper v. Simmons). It was another surprisingly compassionate ruling from a court with seven Republican appointees, including one justice who declared that invalidating discriminatory gay-sodomy laws would lead to "a massive disruption of the current social order," and another who won't smoke pot even to alleviate the side effects of throat-cancer chemo. But the court's ruling in Roper is consistent with other amazingly sympathetic recent decisions, including the revolutionary holding in June that—get this—arrested Americans should still get a chance to consult with an attorney and have their day in court, even if the feds decide to label them "enemy combatants." And let's not forget the tolerant one-two punch of 2003, when the Court realized that (1) student diversity was a permissible consideration for public colleges, and (2) laws criminalizing gay sex violated the liberty interests of homosexuals.

Amazing, isn't it, that it took until the 21st century for America to realize that it probably shouldn't execute people who may not have been physically capable of understanding the precise consequences of their actions? Still, you have to like the court's newfound liberal chutzpah, especially since the Fab-Nine will hear a challenge in October to Oregon's assisted-suicide law. I'm excited for the following cases, to be heard later this year:

Ashcroft v. Those People: whether the rights and privileges of the Constitution apply at all to Arab-American citizens in a post-9/11 world.

Jesse Palmer v. ABC: whether it violates the equal-protection clause's guarantee against discrimination that the only two non-white bachelorettes are always eliminated by the second episode.

Just Married v. The Butterfly Effect: whether it violates procedural due process to deport Ashton Kutcher without notice or a hearing.

Recruits v. University of Colorado: whether the leg strength of a female kicker has any legal relation to whether she is actually "asking for it."

Post a comment

Comment Rules

The following HTML is allowed in comments:
Bold: <b>Text</b>
Italic: <i>Text</i>
<a href="URL">Text</a>


Article by Aaron Zamost

Contact this author