Washington Post

February 18, 2004


THE SUPREME COURT has announced that it will review the constitutionality of the death penalty for people who were children when they committed their crimes. But don’t expect Texas to stop executing juvenile offenders while the court does so. The Lone Star State has scheduled, through the end of June, the executions of four convicts for crimes committed while they were still underage. Unless the courts step in and stop these executions, Texas could end up killing people only to find out later that those executions violated the Constitution.

It should not take a court order to force the state to delay these executions until it knows whether they are legal. But Texas, in its unrivaled enthusiasm for capital punishment, sees few corners that it cannot cut to get convicts to the death chamber quickly. Texas has executed more than half the total number of juvenile offenders put to death in this country since capital punishment’s reinstatement. And officials apparently see no reason to stop now that the high court may be having second thoughts about its decision years ago to uphold the practice. As Harris County District Attorney Charles A. “Chuck” Rosenthal Jr. put it to the Houston Chronicle, the Supreme Court’s decision to hear the case “doesn’t change anything.” He added, “Until a court tells me differently, the executions are still on.” It’s time for the courts to tell Texas differently.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company


Washington Post