Florida Capital Punishment Supporter Urges State to Abandon Juvenile Death Penalty

Florida Senator Victor Crist (R-Tampa), a long-time death penalty supporter, is asking his legislative colleagues to support a bill to bar the juvenile death penalty in Florida. “In my heart and soul I believe it’s the right thing to do. There is a certain essence of juveniles that make them different,” said Crist. Research supports that notion. David Fassler, a Vermont psychiatrist who helped the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry draft its policy against capital punishment for juveniles stated, “[L]aws raising the drinking age to 21 or setting the voting age at 18 already recognize that adolescents are different than adults. Now we really have very solid scientific evidence that, even when they do horrible things, they shouldn’t face the same punishment as adults.” Crist believes the bill will succeed in the Senate, which passed a similar measure in 2001. Nationally in 2004, South Dakota and Wyoming have both abandoned the juvenile death penalty, bringing the total number of states that forbid the practice to 31, including the 12 non-death penalty states. The Supreme Court will consider the constitutionality of the juvenile death penalty this fall when it hears arguments in Roper v. Simmons. (Orlando Sentinel, March 8, 2004) For editorials from around the country in support of such a measure, see DPIC’s Roper v. Simmons page and Juvenile Death Penalty.