How Advocates Ended Teen Death Penalty Kid By Kid


The Supreme Court decision that outlawed the death penalty for juveniles resulted from work by countless people and scores of organizations, including the pleadings of a lone professor 20 years ago and a meeting of allies in Chicago 15 years later, reports Youth Today. The newspaper cites the work of “an unusual alliance of physicians, lawyers, child advocates, and death penalty foes who coordinated a campaign that blended science, politics, legal strategies, religious beliefs, public opinion, and public relations.”

Victor Streib, a law professor at Ohio Northern University, started speaking out against juvenile executions in the 1980s. Later, a “confluence of events and trends,” as Miami lawyer Stephen Harper puts it, brought Streib lots of company. At one point Harper, coordinator of capital litigation at the Miami-Dade, Fl., Public Defenders Office, got a call from the American Bar Association. The ABA caller said five juveniles were scheduled for execution the next year, and wanted help in mounting a concerted effort to stop the practice. The turning point may have been a brainstorming meeting called by the ABA in late 2000 that concluded the time was right to push for an end to the juvenile death penalty. Harper says the goal was “to end the juvenile death penalty state by state, jury by jury, kid by kid.”


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