In principle, the United States should follow international treaties only if it is a signatory to that specific treaty.
However, the Supreme Court of the United States cannot ignore international standards completely either. There are several reasons for this. The world is becoming more and more globalized. Large numbers of immigrants have flocked to the United States in the last several decades and likewise American military and the FBI increasingly carry out operations in the territories outside the jurisdiction of the United States. And sometimes persons who are citizens of other countries, either captured outside the U.S. Or within its territory, are tried in American courts. In these instances, it is not easy to ignore international laws and concerns.
The United States is also a signatory to numerous international treaties pertaining to the question of cruel and unusual punishment. If the United States is a signatory, then it is unconstitutional to ignore those treaties. For example, the United States is a signatory to the United Nations Convention Against torture (U.S. Signs UN Convention Against Torture"). The United States has not signed any international treaties banning the execution of juveniles or persons who have committed their crimes at juvenile age, but it would be unwise not to take international concerns at all. Criticism of the American laws concerning juveniles does not come from America's enemies but from America's closest allies. As a beacon of democracy and civilized behavior, the United States cannot easily ignore the concerns of other democracies in the world. Nor can international actors dictate Americans laws. The Supreme Court should strike a careful and wise balance between considering international standards and ignoring them.
5. What crimes, if committed, should allow for a juvenile defendant to be tried as an adult? Are juveniles tried as adults too often or rather too infrequently?
Make a case for trying juveniles more often as adults. Alternatively, make a separate case for not allowing as many juveniles to be tried adults.
People, including juveniles, commit different kinds of crimes and under different circumstances. For this reason, drawing a clear line always has a potential to be problematic. One case cannot be applied to all cases. Therefore, it is best that the prosecutors and judges decide them case by case, considering the specific circumstances surrounding such cases. Otherwise, saying that this or that crime justifies executing a juvenile is likely to raise more questions than serve as a clear guidance in the legal system.
Consider, for instance, the decision of the Supreme Court to abolish life prisons without parole for all juveniles except for those who commit homicide. As Justice Clearance Thomas argued, there is an obvious fallacy behind the logic of this decision. Thomas said: "The court is quite willing to accept that a 17-year-old who pulls the trigger on a firearm can demonstrate sufficient depravity and irredeemability to be denied reenty into society, but insists that a 17-year-old who rapes an 8-year-old and leaves her for dead does not" (Barnes, 2010). As the law is applied today, as decided by the Supreme Court, the former can be imprisoned for life without parole while the latter should mandatorily be given a chance.
It is best therefore to decide such cases on an individual basis. For example, a seventeen-year-old who commits multiple rapes without remorse should be subjected to a harsher punishment than a juvenile who pulls the trigger somewhat reluctantly, under duress or a serious psychological or socio-economic pressure, and kills someone but is genuinely remorseful. It is a fallacy to assume that a homicide, regardless of conditions surrounding it, is always a supreme crime, while raping or torturing a person is always of a lesser crime than a homicide. The severity of each crime can only be decided by evaluating each case individually, by looking at circumstances surrounding the crime and consequences of a punishment proposed by the prosecutors.
Barnes, R. (2010, May 18) Supreme Court restricts life without parole for juveniles. Washington Post. Retrieved on 15 Nov., 2011, from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/17/AR2010051701355.html
Cruel and unusual punishment, Eighth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. Retrieved on 15 Nov., 2011, from http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data/constitution/amendment08/03.html#1
Lane, C. (2005, March 2) 5-4 Supreme Court Abolishes Juvenile Executions. Washington post. Retrieved on 15 Nov. 2011, from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A62584-2005Mar1.html
Moll, J. (2011, Nov. 1) New polling on public views on juvenile justice issues. Retrieved on 15 Nov. 2011, from http://www.rightoncrime.com/2011/11/new-polling-on-public-views-on-juvenile-justice-issues/
U.S. signs UN convention against torture (1988) U.S. Department of State Bulletin. Retrieved on 15 Nov., 2011, from http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1079/is_n2137_v88/ai_6742034/