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AUGUST 26, 2002
11:58 AM
CONTACT:  National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty
David Elliot, 202-543-9577, ext. 16
Texas Set to Execute Yet Another Black Juvenile Offender

WASHINGTON - August 26 - Amid growing protests from both within the United States and abroad, the state of Texas is prepared to execute yet another African American juvenile offender. If the execution of Toronto Patterson proceeds as scheduled on Wednesday, Aug. 28, it will mean that the past six executions of juvenile offenders in the United States will have taken place in Texas and will have involved African Americans.

Steven W. Hawkins, executive director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, said that Patterson's scheduled execution confirms many troubling aspects of the death penalty, not the least of which that it is used against juvenile offenders.

"Toronto's coerced confession did not even conform with physical and forensic evidence at the crime scene," Hawkins said. "Toronto's trial attorneys did not reveal to the jury the full circumstances surrounding Toronto's so-called confession. They did not offer to the jury substantial mitigating evidence concerning Toronto's background. They failed even to present biological evidence that juvenile offenders have lesser capacity for reflective judgment and impulse control than adult offenders. This should obviously not have been a death penalty case."

Hawkins renewed his call for Texas Gov. Rick Perry to acknowledge the role that race and geography play in the application of the death penalty, particularly as it relates to juvenile offenders, and to stay Toronto's execution.

"Texas has accounted for 12 of the 20 juvenile offender executions in the United States during the past two decades," he said. "Eight of the twelve juvenile offenders executed in Texas have been African American or Latino. The death penalty in the United States disproportionately affects people of color and this is even more true when it comes to juvenile offenders."

Hawkins noted that of the 80 juvenile offenders on death row in the United States, 51, or almost two thirds, are people of color. Of the 80 inmates, just over half -- 41 -- are from Texas or Alabama.

The past five juvenile offenders executed in Texas were T.J. Jones, executed Aug. 8; Napolean Beazley, executed May 28; Gerald Mitchell, executed Oct. 22, 2001; Gary Graham, executed June 22, 2000; and Glen McGinnis, executed Jan. 25, 2000.

Hawkins added that Texas is speeding up its pace of executing juvenile offenders even as the international community shuns the practice. Only three countries -- the United States, Iran and the Democratic Republic of Congo -- are believed to currently execute juvenile offenders. Earlier this month, Pakistan announced it is sparing the lives of 72 juvenile offenders while in the Philippines, the Supreme Court ordered the removal of a dozen juvenile offenders from death row, ruling that their execution would violate the law.

"Such executions not only violate international norms, they also offend human decency," Hawkins said. "The mind of a juvenile offender is by definition less developed than the mind of an adult. Juvenile minds do not handle social pressure, instinctual urges and other stresses the way that adult minds do. Juvenile offenders therefore cannot be held to the same degree of culpability as adults, just as mentally retarded people cannot be held to the same degree of culpability. We now ban the execution of mentally retarded offenders. There can be little justification for applying a different standard when it comes to juveniles."

The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty was founded in 1976 and is the only fully-staffed national organization devoted specifically to abolishing the death penalty. NCADP is comprised of more than 100 local, state, national and international affiliates.


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