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May 16, 2017

In last-minute appeal, condemned Georgia inmate urges extension of bar on juve capital punishment to those under 21

As reported here, "a Georgia inmate scheduled to be executed Tuesday has filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that it is wrong to sentence an offender less than 21 years old to death."  Here is more on the effort to halt an execution scheduled to take place a quarter century after the crime:

J.W. "Boy" Ledford Jr., now 45, was 20 years old when he was sentenced to death after being convicted of killing a doctor who had given him a ride in Georgia in 1992. Ledford is scheduled to be the first Georgia inmate executed in that state this year. The Georgia Supreme Court earlier Tuesday declined to halt the execution.

"Intelligence testing shows Ledford to have, at best, borderline intellectual functioning," attorneys for Ledfrod wrote in their petition to the U.S. Supreme Court. It argues that the execution violates would violate Eight Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment and 14th Amendment guarantees of due process.

The petition argues that other rulings barring the death penalty for juvenile offenders apply to those who commit crimes from the ages of 18 to 21 — "a period in life during which, new scientific investigation forcefully shows, individuals suffer from the same impairments in judgment and self-control that prompted this Court to ban the application of capital punishment to juvenile offenders."

Ledford killed Dr. Harry Johnston after the physician gave him a ride, leaving the victim nearly decapitated. He then went to the doctor's home and tied up and robbed his wife. She has since died.

Lawyers for the state said the argument that Ledford was too young to be sentenced to death had not been raised before. The state said arguments of "evolving standards of decency" about the age of sentenced offenders are vague, and laws about juveniles don't apply to Ledford's case.

Ledford had previously argued that a firing squad would be a more humane way to die than the lethal injection planned by the state. A federal appeals court on Monday denied a request for a stay of execution.

UPDATE: As reported here, "Georgia carried out its first execution of the year early on Wednesday, putting to death a man convicted of killing a 73-year-old neighbor in 1992. J.W. Ledford Jr., 45, was pronounced dead at 1:17 a.m. at the state prison in Jackson, more than six hours after his initial execution time. The delay was waiting for a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court, which denied his request for a stay."

May 16, 2017 at 11:30 PM | Permalink


I think there is good scientific evidence to argue the point here but the Supreme Court only ruled 5-4 to draw the line at 18. And, that in part by examining the existing laws and practices. So, taking everything as a whole, this claim was a longshot for a nation-wide rule applied by SCOTUS. The specific application, including all the facts, on this person depends on the data. Have not examined it.

I continue to question the value of executing people and those who have spent twenty-five years in prison unless they in that time did something like escape or kill/seriously harm underlines the point. The usual "hard cases" are duly noted as is the fact that so many states and countries have them too and still decide execution is wrong.

[The person here also wanted the firing squad to be used instead of lethal injection. Pentobarbital was used but it was argued that medicine he was taken would clash with it.]

Posted by: Joe | May 17, 2017 10:08:18 AM

Since religious belief has been cited a few times on this blog, this might be of interest, though again it is admittedly not really germane:


The transcript is interesting as well.

Posted by: Joe | May 17, 2017 11:10:56 AM

From 18 to 21---wow. Joe, if that doesn't bother you, nothing will.

Posted by: federalist | May 17, 2017 11:56:33 AM

What allegedly doesn't bother me?

There is good scientific evidence that eighteen would be an artificially early line here. Quite obviously, especially to those who think 18 is too high, that might not impress people enough who think the death penalty was net still appropriate at times.

But, as I said, fwiw perhaps, as a matter of constitutional law, at least now, it was a longshot. I have repeatedly noted how certain arguments seemed weak to me in that respect, including the idea that if a state doesn't allow the death penalty, the 8th Amendment allegedly commands that the federal government not apply it.

Posted by: Joe | May 17, 2017 1:05:38 PM

The idea that it's a longshot implies that a court would have the right to impose such a rule, and that should trouble anyone who believes in the rule of law vice the rule of judges.

Posted by: federalist | May 17, 2017 1:22:20 PM

The idea that it's a longshot implies that a court would have the right to impose such a rule, and that should trouble anyone who believes in the rule of law vice the rule of judges.

The idea that some argument is a longshot to me simply states that a court might accept it, but it's not likely they will. This doesn't really to me -- by itself -- mean the court has the right, or how I'd phrase it, the legitimate power to do something.

It simply means the court might do something, but it's not likely. The distant change courts might make really bad decisions is simply fact. It's the nature of human judging. And, there are various checks to it when it does happen.

Anyway, I noted that simply because something will stop the death penalty by itself won't erase an argument being "weak." Weak arguments bother me. But, advocates on both sides make weak, average and strong arguments. So it advocates, all types, doing that doesn't bother me that much. As to the "under 21" rule:

https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/category/categories/issues/juveniles (Whitson)

But, like with segregation, a national rule takes time, early challenges losing there too.

Posted by: Joe | May 17, 2017 1:41:44 PM

Killer stuffs self.


Posted by: David Behar | May 18, 2017 1:52:35 AM

Congress should ban the death penalty. The death penalty appellate bar, including, worthless, biased, pro-criminal federal judges should be be fired on the spot.

Dangerous offenders may be incapacitated by prison murder, suicide and accident. For example, the guy who snatched a 2 year old girl from her front lawn, raped and killed her should be placed in general population. The guards should then take a coffee break. The lawyer may then condemn the lifer who kills him to an additional life term.

The opiate epidemic should be a major factor in dropping crime, more than any other discussed here. I had calculated 10,000 executions as the sweet spot to incapacitate the violent birth cohort. We are getting 30,000 deaths a year, and the benefits should be even greater. Police administering Narcan overdoses may be engaging in the unauthorized practice of medicine. Nurses and pharmacists would be able to do so with a medical order. The latter requires assessment, differential diagnosis, and a clinical decision. I may enjoin the police from doing so.

Posted by: David Behar | May 18, 2017 2:07:12 AM

Reply to weasels citing religion.

The world's religions have their adulthood induction ceremonies around age 14. That is the correct age of adulthood. It was recognized by legal authorities for the past 10,000 years of human civilization, by human biology, and by the self evident physical facts.

As we have grown more nutritionally secure and fat, that age has moved earlier, not later.

Posted by: David Behar | May 18, 2017 4:30:19 PM

One prosecutor disagrees with the 21 year old criterion.


Posted by: David Behar | May 19, 2017 3:32:37 PM

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