Execution of Juveniles in the U.S. and other Countries

Age at which Suspects are Tried as Adults in U.S. States
The Execution of Juveniles in the the United States in the Modern Era
The Execution of Juveniles in Other Countries Since 1990

The United States Supreme Court ruled in Roper v. Simmons in 2005 that imposing the death penalty on offenders who were younger than age 18 at the time of the murder for which they were charged violates the Eighth Amendment. The practice is also directly prohibited by international human rights law as expressed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the American Convention on Human Rights. The acceptance of this ban is so universal that it is widely recognized as a peremptory norm of customary international law.1 

The ICCPR was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 16, 1966, and was ratified on March 23, 1976. Article 6(5) of the treaty states: "Sentence of death shall not be imposed for crimes committed by persons below eighteen years of age." The ICCPR has received almost universal endorsement, with 169 countries as parties to the treaty, including the U.S., which ratified the Covenant in 1992, but with certain reservations. The U.S. was one of only three countries which took substantive reservations to Article 6 (the others were Norway and Ireland). Those reservations became moot, however, when Norway and Ireland subsequently abolished the death penalty and the U.S. Supreme Court declared the execution of juvenile offenders to be unconstitutional.

See Schabas, The Abolition of the Death Penalty in International Law 87 (1997) (quoting UN Human Rights Commission); but see Brief of the Solicitor General of the United States, Domingues v. Nevada, 528 U.S. 963 (1999), cert. denied (maintaining that the execution of juvenile offenders was not forbidden under customary international law).


AGE AT WHICH ALL SUSPECTS ARE TRIED AS ADULTS
(Pursuant to the Supreme Court's 2005 ruling in Roper v. Simmons, the death penalty is prohibited in all states for those under the age of 18 when the offense for which they were charged was committed.)

 
AGE
STATES
SIXTEEN AND ABOVE (2 states) New York, North Carolina
SEVENTEEN AND ABOVE (8 states) Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin
EIGHTEEN AND ABOVE (40 states plus the District of Columbia) Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wyoming, plus the District of Columbia
(Source: Sarah Hockenberry and Charles Puzzanchera, Juvenile Court Statistics 2014, National Center for Juvenile Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Programs, Appendix B at 103 (Upper age of jurisdiction) (April 2017).
 
THE EXECUTION OF JUVENILES IN THE U. S.

The first execution of a juvenile offender was in 1642 with Thomas Graunger in Plymouth Colony, Massachesetts. In the 360 years since that time, a total of approximately 365 persons have been executed for juvenile crimes, constituting 1.8% of roughly 20,000 confirmed American executions since 1608. Twenty-two of these executions for juvenile crimes have been imposed since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976. These 22 recent executions of juvenile offenders make up about 2% of the total executions since 1976.

JUVENILES EXECUTED IN THE UNITED STATES IN THE MODERN ERA (Since January 1, 1973)

Name Date of Execution Place of Execution Race Age at Crime Age at Execution
Charles Rumbaugh
9/11/85
Texas White
17
28
J. Terry Roach
1/10/86
South Carolina White
17
25
Jay Pinkerton
5/15/86
Texas White
17
24
Dalton Prejean
5/18/90
Louisiana Black
17
30
Johnny Garrett
2/11/92
Texas White
17
28
Curtis Harris
7/1/93
Texas Black
17
31
Frederick Lashley
7/28/93
Missouri Black
17
29
Ruben Cantu
8/24/93
Texas Latino
17
26
Chris Burger
12/7/93
Georgia White
17
33
Joseph Cannon
4/22/98
Texas White
17
38
Robert Carter 5/18/98 Texas Black 17 34
Dwayne Allen Wright
10/14/98
Virginia Black
17
24
Sean Sellers
2/4/99
Oklahoma White
16
29
Douglas Christopher Thomas
1/10/00
Virginia White
17
26
Steven Roach
1/13/00
Virginia White
17
23
Glen McGinnis
1/25/00
Texas Black
17
27
Shaka Sankofa (Gary Graham)
6/22/00
Texas Black
17
36
Gerald Mitchell
10/22/01
Texas Black
17
33
Napoleon Beazley
5/28/02
Texas Black
17
25
T.J. Jones
8/8/02
Texas
Black
17
25
Toronto Patterson
8/28/02
Texas
Black
17
24
Scott Allen Hain
4/3/03
Oklahoma White
17
32

 


THE EXECUTION OF JUVENILES IN OTHER COUNTRIES

Iran is the most prolific executioner of juveniles in the world. The August 2015 Report on the United Nations' Secretary-General on human rights in Iran expressed ongoing concern "at the frequency of executions, especially for drug-related offences and of juvenile offenders." The U.N. report said that, while no official data were publicly available, 160 juveniles were reportedly on death row in the country as at 2014. UN Secretary-General, Report to the General Assembly, Situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, A/70/352, p.30 (Augist 31, 2015). Amnesty International recorded 73 executions of juvenile offenders by Iran between January 2005 and November 2015, and believes "[t]he real number is likely to be much higher as many death penalty cases are believed to go unreported." None of the 73 juvenile executions recorded by Amnesty was officially announced by the Iranian government. Amnesty International, Growing Up on Death Row: The Death Penalty and Juvenile Offenders in Iran, p.28 (2016).

Iran, however, is not the only country in which juveniles are executed. Amnesty International reports that military tribunals in Somalia's semi-autonomous Puntland region continue to carry out executions of children. Five boys, all between ages 14 and 17, were executed on April 8, 2017 for their alleged involvement in the armed group Al-Shabaab’s killing of three senior government officials. Michelle Kagari, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes, said “These five boys were executed following a fundamentally flawed process during which they were tortured to confess, denied access to a lawyer and additional protections accorded to juveniles, and tried in a military tribunal." At the time, Amnesty called on Puntland authorities to spare the lives of two other boys, Muhamed Yasin Abdi, 17, and Daud Saied Sahal, 15, who were facing imminent military execution. Amnesty International, "Somalia: Halt execution spree of children in Puntland," April 28, 2017.  The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office reports that Puntland state authorities had more than 50 juveniles in custody whom the European Union believes had been forced to participate in fighting by Al Shabaab. The children were captured during a successful government operation against Al Shabaab in March 2016. United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office, "Human Rights Priority Country status report: January to June 2016," updated February 8, 2017.

The human rights organization, Reprieve, reports that Saudi Arabia executed at least four juveniles in January 2016 during a mass execution of 47 people. According to Reprieve, one of the four, Ali al-Ribh, had been arrested in school, tortured into a falsely confessing to involvement in anti-government protests, and executed. Reprieve, "Global executions in 2016," December 29, 2016. Reprieve reports that three other Saudi juveniles—Ali al-Nimr, Dawoud al-Marhoon, and Abdullah al-Zaher—who were arrested following pro-democracy protests in 2012 face execution after having been "tortured into signing false ‘confessions’, which were used in a secretive counter-terrorism court to convict them, and sentence them to death." Reprieve, "Trump in Saudi Arabia as juveniles face execution," May 15, 2017.


"The death penalty for juvenile offenders appears to have been abandoned by nations everywhere in large part due to the express provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and of several other international treaties and agreements. Since 1990, juvenile offenders are known to have been executed in only seven countries: China, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran, Pakistan, Yemen, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and the United States."
- Victor L. Streib, "The Juvenile Death Penalty Today: Death Sentences and Executions for Juvenile Crimes January 1973 - September 30, 2003" (2004)


REPORTED EXECUTIONS OF JUVENILE OFFENDERS IN OTHER COUNTRIES SINCE 1990

Country Name of Prisoner Age at crime (C), trial (T), sentence (S), or execution (E) Year of Death Notes
CHINA Zhao Lin 16 (C), 18 (E) 2003 China revised a law in 1997 forbidding the execution of defendants under age 18 at the time of the crime, but juveniles continuie to be executed due to insufficient care in determining the age of defendants.
Gao Pan 16 or 17 (C) 2004
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO Kasongo 14 (C/E) 2000 In 2001, the death sentences of five children were commuted. At the time of writing there was a moratorium on executions in effect.
IRAN Kazeem Shirafkan 17 (E) 1990 In December 2003, a bill to raise the minimum age to 18 was approved by the parliament, but must still receive the approval of the highest governing body in Iran, the Guardian Council, to become law.
Male (name unknown) 16 (E) 1992
Male (name unknown) 17 (E) 1992
Male (name unknown) 17 (E) 1992
Ebrahim Qorbanzadeh 17 (E) 1999
Jasem Abrahimi 17 (E) 2000
Mehrdad Youssefi 16 (C) 2001
Mohammad Mohammadzadeh 17 (C), 21 (E) 2004
Salman 17 (C) 2004
Atefeh Rajabi Sahaaleh 16 (E) 2004
Iman Farrokhi 17 (C) 2005
Ali Safarpour Rajabi 16 or 17 (C) 2005
Mahmoud Asghari 15 or 16 (C) 2005
Ayaz Marhoni 16 or 17 (C) 2005
Farshid Farighi 14 to 16 (C) 2005
Name unknown 17 (E) 2005
Name unknown 17 (C) 2005
Rostam Tajik 16 (C) 2005
Majid Segound (Sagvand) 17 (E) 2006
Sattar 17 (C) 2006
Morteza M 16 (C) 2006
Naser Batmani uner 18 (C) 2006
Mohammad Mousawi 16 (C) 2007
Sa'id Qanabar Zahi 17 (E) 2007
Mohammad Pezhman (Pejman) under 18 (C) 2007
Amir Asgari under 18 (C) 2007
Hossein Gharabaghloo 16 (C) 2007
Babak Rahimi 17 (E) 2007
Name unknown under 18 (C) 2007
Name unknown under 18 (C) 2007
Mohamad Reza Tork 16 (C) 2007
Makwan Moloudzadeh 13 (C) 2007
Amir Hoshang Fazlollahzadeh under 18 (C) 2007
Javad Shojaee 16 (C) 2008
Mohammad Hassanzadeh 16 or 17 (E) 2008
Hasan Mozafari under 18 (C) 2008
Rahman Shahidi under 18 (C) 2008
Reza Hejazi 15 (C) 2008
Behnam Zare 15 (C) 2008
Gholamreza H 17 (C) 2008
Ahmad Zare 17 (C) 2008
Mola Gol Hassan 17 (C) 2009
Delara Darabi 17 (C) 2009
Ali Jafari 17 (C) 2009
Bahnoud Shojaee 17 (C) 2009
Mosleh Zamani 17 (C) 2009
Mohammad A. 17 (C) 2010
A.N. 17 (C) 2011
H.B. 17 (C) 2011
Ali Reza Molla Soltani 17 (E) 2011
Mohammad Norouzi 17 (C) 2011
Vahid Moslemi 17 (C) 2011
Ehsan 17 (C) 2011
Amir Shirmohammadi 17 (C) 2011
Amir A. 14 (C) 2012
Shahruz 17 (C) 2012
Samad 16 (C) 2012
Bahram Ahmadi 17 (C) 2012
Said Afshar 15 (C) 2013
Abdolhamid Sekhavatian Under 18 (C) 2013
Arman Mohammadi 12 (C) 2013
Name Unknown 14 (C) 2013
Name Unknown Under 18 (C) 2013
Ahmad Seif Panahi 16 (C) 2013
Ahmad Jenkihoo 15 (C) 2013
Abdolaziz Ra’is 17 (C) 2013
Iraj Nasiri 15 (C) 2013
Mehras Rezaei 17 (C) 2014
Hassan Gholami 14 (C) 2014
Hassan Zolfaqari 17 (C) 2014
Reza Ganjlu 16 (C) 2014
Janat Mir Under 18 (C) 2014
Ahmad Rahimi 17 (C) 2014
Ali Fouladi 16 (C) 2014
Ebrahim Hajati 16 (C) 2014
Amir Sardaha’i 17 (C) 2014
Hadi Veysi 15 (C) 2014
Fardin Ja’farian 14 (C) 2014
Rahim Norallahzadeh 14 (C) 2014
Javad Saberi 17 (C) 2015
Vazir Amroddin 16 (C) 2015
Samad Zahabi 17 (C) 2015
Fatemeh Salbehi 17 (C) 2015
NIGERIA Chiebore Onuoha 15 (C) 1997  
PAKISTAN Name Unknown 17 (E) 1992 In July 2000, the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance was promulgated, abolishing the death penalty for anyone under 18 at the time of the crime. In July 2002 it was announced that 74 young offenders had been taken off death row.
Shamun Masih 14 (C) 1997
Ali Sher 13 (C) 2001
Mutabar Khan 16 (C) 2006
Ansar Iqbal 15 (A) 2015
Shafqat Hussain 14 (T) 2015
Aftab Bahadur 15 (C) 2015
Faisal Mehmood Under 18 (C) 2015
Muhammad Afzal 16 (S) 2015
SAUDI ARABIA Sadeq Mal-Allah 17 (S) 1992  
Dhahian Rakan al-Sibai'l 15 or 16 (C) 2007
Moeid bin Hussein Hakami 16 (E) 2007
Sultan Bin Sulayman Bin Muslim al-Muwallad 17 (C) 2009
'Issa bin Muhammad 'Umar Muhammad 17 (C) 2009
Rizana Nafeek 17 (C) 2013
Ali bin Muhammad bin Hazam al-Shihri 16 (C) 2013
Sa’id bin Nasser bin Muhammad al-Shahrani 17 (C) 2013
SUDAN Mohammed Jama Gesmallah 16 (C) 2005  
Imad Ali Abdullah 17 (C) 2005
YEMEN Nasser Munir Nasser al'Kirbi 13 (E) 1993 In 1994 Yemen abolished the death penalty for people under 18 at the time of the crime.
Adil Muhammad Saif al-Ma'amari 16 (C) 2007
Fuad Ahmed Ali Abdulla Under 18 (C) 2012

(Source: Amnesty International "Indecent and Internationally Illegal: The Death Penalty Against Child Offenders" September 2002, with updated information from Amnesty International: Execution of Child Offenders - Updated Summary of Cases, Executions of Juveniles Since 1990 (Latest version: April 2016).)


 Last Updated June 13, 2017.

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