Orlando Sentenial

April 12, 2004


We support the death penalty — for adults. But it’s wrong for Florida to consider executing people for crimes they committed before age 18.

Yet a measure in the Florida Legislature intended to reserve capital punishment for convicts older than 18 has been twisted by a House subcommittee. It allows the execution of people who committed crimes when they were 17. It’s incumbent that reasonable lawmakers set the age limit at 18.

Reserving the death penalty for adults doesn’t impugn capital punishment. Indeed, the proposal to set the age limit at 18 was made by state Sen. Victor Crist, one of the most passionate supporters of Florida’s capital-punishment laws.

Mr. Crist said he did a lot of soul searching before reaching the conclusion that executing people for crimes committed as juveniles was wrong because teenagers and adults are not the same. The reasoning that led him to that conclusion is supported by scientific evidence. High-technology imaging exams show that the brain’s frontal lobe, which helps anticipate consequences and controls impulses, is not fully developed in teens. That explains why some juveniles may make poor decisions that could result in horrific crimes. It’s also noteworthy that existing laws recognize that teens lack maturity. That’s why juveniles aren’t allowed to vote or drink alcohol.

Despite these issues, juveniles who commit vicious deadly crimes cannot be allowed to walk free. Life in prison without the possibility of parole is the best way to punish them. That should last a long, long time.


Orlando Sentinel