WASHINGTON (July 19, 2004) -- Cardinal Theodore McCarrick has called on the United States Supreme Court to halt the execution of persons for crimes committed as juveniles.
"Just two years ago, the Court concluded that the execution of persons with mental retardation cannot be squared with the constitutional guarantee against cruel and unusual punishment," Cardinal McCarrick said. "It is our hope that the Supreme Court will now extend the same moral wisdom and legal reasoning to the use of the death penalty against those who committed capital crimes as juveniles."
The Cardinal's statement came as the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and 29 other religious organizations filed an amici brief asking the high court to affirm a lower court ruling that the execution of persons for crimes committed as juveniles violates the Constitution.
The case before the Court, Roper v. Simmons, involves a Missouri inmate, Christopher Simmons, who was sentenced to death for a murder committed when he was 17. Last year the Missouri Supreme Court concluded that such executions violate the constitutional guarantee against cruel and unusual punishment and granted Simmons' request to halt his execution.
Cardinal McCarrick is Archbishop of Washington and Chair of the USCCB Domestic Policy Committee.
This is the text of Cardinal McCarrick's statement:
Urge Supreme Court to Halt Juvenile Executions
Theodore Cardinal McCarrick
Archbishop of Washington
Chair, Domestic Policy Committee
July 19, 2004
As we approach the 25th anniversary of the U.S. Catholic Bishops call for an end to capital punishment, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, joined by 29 other religious organizations, have filed with the U.S. Supreme Court an amicus brief calling for a halt to the execution of persons who committed capital crimes as juveniles.
Just two years ago, the Court concluded that the execution of persons with mental retardation cannot be squared with the constitutional guarantee against cruel and unusual punishment. It is our hope that the Supreme Court will now extend the same moral wisdom and legal reasoning to the use of the death penalty against those who committed capital crimes as juveniles.
We are pleased that representatives of a broad cross section of religious groups in the United States - reflecting Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist traditions - have joined in this effort. It is our shared conviction that because of their age, juveniles lack the psychological maturity and judgment of adults and therefore should not be treated as adults for purposes of capital crimes. Instead of resorting to the most severe and irreversible punishment our courts can impose, we believe society has an obligation always to hold out hope for the reform of those who as youths commit crimes, even the most terrible crimes.
As the Missouri Catholic Conference noted shortly after the Court agreed to hear the present case, "[i]t is hard to understand that a nation that requires persons to be 18 to be declared a legal adult, to vote, serve in the military, make decisions about their own medical treatment, or even buy a pack of cigarettes can allow adolescents to be treated like adults for the purpose of the death penalty." Missouri Catholic Conference, News Release (Jan. 28, 2004).
While we continue to work to oppose any use of the death penalty for what it does to human life and how it diminishes our society, we hope the Court will in this case, at least, strike down the use of this ultimate punishment against our children.