Justices abolish death penalty for juveniles 5-4 decision affects 70 cases; Kennedy pens majority's view The Associated Press Updated: 10:33 a.m. ET March 1, 2005WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the Constitution forbids the execution of killers who were under 18 when they committed their crimes, ending a practice used in 19 states. The 5-4 decision throws out the death sentences of about 70 juvenile murderers and bars states from seeking to execute minors for future crimes. The executions, the court said, were unconstitutionally cruel. Earlier ban It was the second major defeat at the high court in three years for supporters of the death penalty. Justices in 2002 banned the execution of the mentally retarded, also citing the Constitutions Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishments. The court had already outlawed executions for those who were 15 and younger when they committed their crimes. Tuesdays ruling prevents states from making 16- and 17-year-olds eligible for execution. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, noted that most states dont allow the execution of juvenile killers and those that do use the penalty infrequently. The trend, he noted, was to abolish the practice. Our society views juveniles ... as categorically less culpable than the average criminal, Kennedy wrote. Juvenile offenders have been put to death in recent years in just a few other countries, including Iran, Pakistan, China and Saudi Arabia. All those countries have gone on record as opposing capital punishment for minors. The Supreme Court has permitted states to impose capital punishment since 1976 and more than 3,400 inmates await execution in the 38 states that allow death sentences. Kennedy joins more liberal justices Justices were called on to draw an age line in death cases after Missouris highest court overturned the death sentence given to a 17-year-old Christopher Simmons, who kidnapped a neighbor in Missouri, hog-tied her and threw her off a bridge. Prosecutors say he planned the burglary and killing of Shirley Crook in 1993 and bragged that he could get away with it because of his age. The four most liberal justices had already gone on record in 2002, calling it shameful to execute juvenile killers. Those four, joined by Kennedy, also agreed with Tuesdays decision: Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, as expected, voted to uphold the executions. They were joined by Justice Sandra Day OConnor. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7051296 What's wrong with this picture? Why is a 15 year old that kills someone in cold blood for whatever reason any less culpable than a 30 year old? WTF!