AFP - March 3, 2004


Two states Wednesday abolished the juvenile death penalty,
bringing to 31 the number of states that do not execute youthful offenders
for crimes committed at the age of 16 or 17.

South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds and Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal each
signed their state's legislation, while a similar bill is advancing
in New Hampshire.

The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty targeted South Dakota
and Wyoming as part of its Campaign to End Juvenile Executions. Next
term, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether executing
people for crimes committed before the age of 18 violates the 8th Amendment
ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Despite the recent developments, Texas has scheduled the execution of
five youthful offenders, four of whom are Latino and one of whom is
African American. The past six youthful offenders executed by the state
of Texas all have been African American. (Two of the Texas youthful
offenders scheduled for execution, Edward Capetillo and Anzel Jones,
have been granted stays.)

"The recent successes in Wyoming, South Dakota and New Hampshire show
that momentum is with us," said Brian Roberts, NCADP executive director.
"When the U.S. Supreme Court banned the execution of people with mental
retardation, 30 states outlawed that practice. Now 31 states outlaw the
juvenile death penalty. We're well on our way to sweeping the juvenile death
penalty away to the dustbin of history, where it belongs."

Roberts expressed alarm at the number of youthful offender executions
scheduled in Texas. "Texas is out of bounds," he said. "Not only is
Texas' death penalty system among the nation's weakest when it comes
to clemency review, quality of trial counsel and appellate review,
Texas is bucking the national trend when it comes to executing youthful
offenders. In legal parlance, this makes Texas an outlier state."