The death sentences of 72 inmates were commuted by yesterday’s Supreme Court’s ruling that the Constitution prohibits the execution of people who were under 18 when they committed their crimes, says teh Los Angeles Times. The decision sparked debate and prompted difficult questions: What special considerations do children deserve? Who is a child? And – perhaps the toughest of all – are some people beyond rehabilitation?
Nowhere did the debate rage as fiercely as in Texas. Since the Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976, of the 22 people who have been executed for crimes they committed when they were under 18, 13 were executed in Texas. Of the 72 inmates affected by Tuesday’s ruling, 29 – about 40 percent – are from Texas. “This was the most horrendous thing I have ever seen,” said David Weeks, Walker County, Tx., prosecutor, of the court decision. The 29 people on death row in Texas for crimes they committed as juveniles include a disproportionate number of minorities. Nine are African American, 12 are Latino, and one is Asian American. Seven – or 24 percent – are white, though Texas is more than 70 percent white.