Ruling May Lead to Freedom for Local Killer

3-1-05 - The US Supreme Court says the death penalty is unconstitutionally cruel for juvenile killers.

Justices ruled five-to-four that the Constitution forbids executing anyone for a crime committed before the age of 18.

Anzel Keon Jones was sentenced to die in 1996 for murdering a Paris woman during an attack in the home of the victim and her mother. Jones later admitted to the crimes, but claimed the jury was racist. His case is one of 29 in Texas that will be impacted by the court's ruling. Since all life sentences in Texas have the ability for parole, Jones could someday be released.

The court's ruling ends a practice used in Texas and 18 other states and tosses out death sentences of about 70 juvenile murderers. It also blocks states from seeking to execute minors for future crimes.

The court had already barred the death penalty for defendants 15 years of age or younger at the time of the crime.

In the ruling, Justice Anthony Kennedy writes society sees juveniles "as categorically less culpable than the average criminal."

In 2002, justices banned the execution of mentally retarded people.