Opinion

The Court got the death penalty all wrong

The Supreme Court recently ruled that the execution of minors aged 16 and 17 was unconstitutional; I couldn’t be more disappointed with the court’s ruling. One of the strengths of the Supreme Court is that it has generally allowed for a lot of flexibility in its rulings and left a lot open for later interpretation. The ruling in this case, Roper v. Simmons, however, is about as clear cut as you can get-and that is where the problem lies.

While I agree that ordering the death penalty is unjust in a vast majority of cases involving juvenile criminals, putting a clearly defined, bright-line rule on the issue will countermand justice in too many cases. A criminal’s date of birth is now the deciding factor between life and death in some cases. Are they going to start hanging signs a la the tobacco industry in courthouses? “To receive death penalty: born on or before March 4, 1987.”

The fact is that all criminals are not made of the same mold. There are some convicted murderers that are 23 years old and probably lack the capacity necessary to be put to death. Just the same, I’m quite confident there are convicted murderers a few months shy of their 18th birthday that committed such heinous crimes, the only place they belong is on death row.

If the court wanted to stop unconstitutional applications of the death penalty, they should have established generalized guidelines to be applied on a case by case basis. This general rule of age will undoubtedly circumvent justice, and too many horrific criminals will get away without their deserved sentence.

***

So did anyone notice in the Feb. 16 Senate minutes that at approximately 4:37 p.m. Ramiro Munoz brought brownies? While I’m sure Senator Munoz’s brownies are warm and chewy, I think maybe this is the sort of thing I was speaking of in my last column.

***

On a related note, the Student Government Executive Board elections lost any hint of legitimacy with the failure to hold a debate for any of the candidates. Students are now supposed to do what to decide? Read a newspaper editorial? See who has the most friends in their facebook group? Pick the prettiest color shirt? It’s really a shame that this election will probably be decided by some combination of the answers to those three questions. I know the debates aren’t usually much of an event, commissioners, but at least make the good faith effort to pass yourselves off as running a credible election.

***

The heat is turning up on Kofi Annan and the U.N.; the Oil for Food scandal is reaching as high as Annan’s second in command now. Maybe Billy C won’t be able to save Kofi after all? I do know this though; If Annan were an American, the world would have been calling for his head months ago.

Don Donelson can be contacted at d.donelson@umiami.edu.

March 4, 2005

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Student newspaper at the University of Miami


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The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.