The Supreme Court recently began hearing arguments in a case involving the execution of teen-agers convicted of murder. The court, sources say, will examine the moral maturity of the teen-age mind to determine whether it is constitutional to execute minors. Many think that juveniles should receive the same punishment for murder as adults. Others believe that a child who commits murder is "obviously not in his right mind" and therefore should not be executed.
Do you think juveniles should be subject to the same legal penalties as adults? At what age are people capable of recognizing the wrong in committing crimes?
I do not believe that minors should be executed for committing murder, or for any other crime, for that matter. We cannot drink, vote, go to war or have the other rights adults do, so why should we have the "right" to receive the same punishment as adults?
Many children growing up in large cities can get lost in "the system" and turn to crime as a way of life and as a means of receiving attention. These misguided children should not be executed, but should undergo serious psychiatric counseling to set them straight and put them on the path to a better way of life. DUSTY RAMEY Potomac
The age at which people are capable of recognizing the wrong in committing a crime cannot be decided for the nation as a whole. Each individual is raised differently; no two people will mature at the same rate.
Other members of society should be responsible for determining the mental maturity of minors. These individuals should be people who are in close contact with the person, or at least know a great deal about their activities, Employees at a juvenile's school would be ideal. Teachers, counselors, principals, coaches and administrators would be aware of a student's activities. Parents should not be included in the judging of their children because they would be prejudiced. Parole officers should be required to discover the reasons behind the actions of a minor. These results would show if the person is mentally mature and capable of realizing the full extent of their actions.
All this information should be reported to a judge for a decision to hold a case or not. This would clearly be the best chance we have of not prosecuting an "underage" person. MARK GOODMAN Stonewall Jackson
Juveniles should be subject to the same legal penalties as adults after they have become teen-agers. From the very beginning, children are taught the difference between right and wrong. They know that the choice is theirs and that a wrong choice will yield the appropriate punishment.
Children under the age of 13 should not be punished under the laws for adults. They should still be punished, but their punishment should be aimed at rehabilitation and making them ready to be productive members of society.
Teen-agers should be subject to the same legal penalties as adults. Teen-agers are always ready to take on new responsibilities, and along with new freedoms should come the new consequences of their actions. Teen-agers are as able to discern between right and wrong as adults and should be punished accordingly. ERICKA KEKIC Evangel Christian
Teen-agers have to wait until a certain age before they can receive their driver's licenses. There are age limits on drinking, marriage and sex. Until a person turns 18, they are legally under their parents' control and must live by these limitations.
Juveniles should not receive the same punishment for murder as adults. Some people feel that murder is murder, no matter what age a person is. But if laws were put into that perspective, drinking would be drinking, no matter what the age.
Wanting to punish a person fairly for a crime is fine. People should receive what they deserve. A teen-ager must live with age restrictions because he is supposedly not mature or responsible enough to handle certain rights. Courts should take into this consideration and this should be remembered when sentenceing a juvenile for a crime. JENNY SIMPSON Woodbridge
From the time a child is born, he is told "no."
"No" from his father, mother, teachers and peers. But the American judicial system seems to have adopted the Dr. Spock "let-them-make-their-own-boundaries" philosophy.
Unfortunately, it is no shock to turn on the local TV news and find that several youths have shot or killed someone. By not punishing these ruthless and destructive adolescents, the government not only endangers the communities, but juveniles themselves.
In a society where there is constant violence, the youth of America should be the hope for tomorrow. Ironically, many people are concentrating more on the preservation of the planet than on the planet's population.
The point is this: just telling a child "no" often does not work -- slapping him on his can does. Telling a delinquent with a criminal record "no" just does not work -- slapping his can in jail does. AMYE STEVENS Osbourn
The Bible states "I will put my law within them and I will write it upon their hearts." This passage of scripture illustrated the fact that, from the moment he is born, man understands the basic differences between right and wrong. It is true that many would argue that certain circumstances are not always so black and white, but it is a citizen's responsibility to adhere to the rules and regulations that have been laid down for him by federal and state governments in his own best interest.
The '90s have arrived. The younger generation of today is much more knowledgeable and aware of the law than even that of 10 years ago. Since the youth of today has a fuller understanding of the law, they should be treated accordingly. The best solution would be to lower the age for being charged as an adult; a 16-year-old understands as much what he is doing when he breaks the law as a 30-year-old. If the consequences were equally harsh, perhaps the 16-year-old would be more reluctant to deviate from the proper conduct. STEVE BERCIK Osbourn Park
Juveniles should be given special consideration on the subject of legal punishment. Although people are capable of recognizing the wrong in committing crimes at a very young age, it would be "cruel and unusual punishment" to execute children.
Juveniles face many pressures which they must learn to cope with, such as family violence, poverty, peer pressure, educational failure, absentee parents and drugs. Juveniles should not be executed because they deserve the chance to reach adulthood. However, juveniles should not expect to escape punishment because of their age; they should be placed in a prison geared toward rehabilitation through hard labor.
People are able to recognize that committing crimes is wrong when they are children, but should not receive the same penalties as adults (including execution) until they are 18 years old. At this age, they have had sufficient time to learn to cope with problems and to reform. KIA WINFREY Chancellor Students Speak Out: Topic for December
Last year, Maryland enacted a law submitting the sale of all handguns to review by a panel of experts, legislators and citizens to determine whether the guns are "Saturday night specials" and should therefore be banned from sale in Maryland. Other states around the country have proposed laws restricting so-called "assault rifles" and semiautomatic weapons on the grounds that they serve little sporting function and are used primarily in the commission of crimes.
The National Rifle Association and other organizations argue that these laws are infringements on the Second Amendment to the Constitution, which stipulates the right of the people to bear arms and maintain a militia. Others say that this amendment applies only to those serving in the military and not to the civilian population.
Do you think gun control laws are necessary? What should those laws say? How does this relate to the Second Amendment?
Written responses should be no more than 150 words in length and typed or written legibly. We are also interested in receiving political-style cartoons on the topic. Cartoons should be drawn on posterboard.
Students should submit their responses by Dec. 17 with name, age, grade and school included on the work to: High School Honors, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071
We will publish selected responses in December editions of the Prince William Weekly.