RESOLUTION OF THE PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION
OPPOSING THE DEATH PENALTY FOR PERSONS
UNDER AGE 18 AT THE TIME OF THE OFFENSE
WHEREAS, the United States Supreme Court is hearing the case of Christopher Simmons, who was 17 when he committed murder in Missouri, and who was sentenced to death; and,
WHEREAS, the Missouri Supreme Court in Roper v. Simmons found that the death sentence for someone under 18 violated the 8th and 14th Amendments of the United States Constitution; and,
WHEREAS, S.B. 15, pending in the Pennsylvania General Assembly, would establish that "a sentence of death shall not be imposed upon a person who was 17 years of age or younger at the time of the commission of the offense"; and,
WHEREAS, the United States is the only country in the world that permits, as a matter of law, the execution of persons who were under 18 at the time of the crime (hereafter "juveniles"); and,
WHEREAS, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by every country in the world except the United States, prohibits the execution of juveniles; and,
WHEREAS, in 2002, the only place in the world in which juveniles were executed by the state was Texas; and,
WHEREAS, in 2003, one juvenile offender was executed in the United States (Oklahoma) and one reportedly was executed in China; and,
WHEREAS, Pennsylvania currently has two juveniles on death row; and,
WHEREAS, Pennsylvania has not executed a juvenile since 1916; and,
WHEREAS, in June 2002, the United States Supreme Court, in Atkins v. Virginia, ruled that the death penalty for offenders with mental retardation is "cruel and unusual punishment" and, therefore, unconstitutional, using reasoning that applies with equal force to juvenile offenders; and,
WHEREAS, research by developmental psychologists and brain researchers show that adolescents are not as fully developed as adults in those areas that bear on their blameworthiness; and,
WHEREAS, the criminal justice system can severely punish juveniles for capital crimes, thereby fulfilling society's interest in imposing penalties that are proportional and just; and,
WHEREAS, in 1983 the American Bar Association adopted a resolution opposing the juvenile death penalty; and,
WHEREAS, in 2003 the Pennsylvania Juvenile Court Judges' Commission adopted a resolution opposing the juvenile death penalty.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Philadelphia Bar Association opposes, in principle, the imposition of capital punishment upon any person for any offense committed while under the age of eighteen (18).
AND, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Philadelphia Bar Association supports S.B. 15, and any similarly worded legislation prohibiting the imposition of capital punishment upon any person for any offense committed while under the age of eighteen (18).
AND, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Philadelphia Bar Association agrees to participate along with other state and local bar associations as amici curiae in Roper v. Simmons in the event such an amicus brief is filed on behalf of other such organizations.
AND, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Chancellor or his designee is authorized to take whatever steps are necessary to effectuate this resolution.
PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION
BOARD OF GOVERNORS
ADOPTED: MARCH 25, 2004