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Letters Editor
The New York Times
229 West 43rd Street
New York, NY 10036


The execution of Johnny F. Garrett by the state of Texas is yet another demonstration of how the United States is out of step with the rest of the world when it comes to the death penalty. While the international trend toward total abolition of the death penalty gains momentum every year, the United States continues to put its citizens to death.

The execution of Johnny Garrett is especially appalling, however, when the facts of his case are considered. Not only was he severely mentally impaired and subjected to both physical and sexual abuse as a child, but this information was not made available to the jury at his trial. Furthermore, it is deeply troubling that the state of Texas would execute someone who was a juvenile at the time of his offense.

The worldwide consensus against the imposition of the death penalty on juvenile offenders is overwhelming. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 6), the American Convention on Human Rights (Article 4), and many other international agreements ban the death penalty for offenders under the age of eighteen.

Of the countries that still have the death penalty, only seven have executed juvenile offenders in the last decade. There have been an unknown number of such executions in Iraq and Iran, one each in Bangladesh, Nigeria and Barbados (which has since raised its minimum age to 18), three in Pakistan, and five in the United States (three of those have been in Texas).

Our country has long recognized that juveniles are not yet mature enough to vote, own a gun, or serve in the military, yet 24 states allow juvenile offenders to be put to death. If the United States refuses to join the growing global consensus against the use of death as a punishment, we should at least be civilized enough not to kill our children.