Rapid City Journal

February 18, 2004


Last week the state Senate rejected a bill that would have repealed South Dakota’s death penalty law while passing a bill that removes capital punishment for individuals who committed their offense when they were less than 18 years old. The juvenile death penalty bill, SB182, passed the Senate, 23-11, and awaits a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee.

Federal law and 29 other states have passed laws that prohibit capital punishment for juvenile offenders. Arguments against the juvenile death penalty include the acknowledgment that youth under the age of 18 are not as mature in their decision-making than adults. Youth 17 years of age and under are not allowed to vote, buy alcohol or cigarettes, make medical decisions, or enter into contracts, because they are considered immature. Why should they be executed for crimes committed before society considers them to be full adults?

It is sometimes the case that prosecutors seek to try juveniles as adults because of the seriousness of their crimes and/or past record. But punishment for juvenile defendants should not include the death penalty.

South Dakota should not allow capital punishment for juveniles. The Legislature should pass SB182 and set a minimum age for the death penalty at 18 years old.


Rapid City Journal