Human Rights Watch called upon Virginia Governor James Gilmore to prevent two executions scheduled for this coming week. Unless the governor intervenes, Steven Roach and Douglas Christopher Thomas will be put to death for capital murders committed when they were juveniles.
International law unequivocally condemns the use of the death penalty on those who were under eighteen at the time of their crimes. Only six countries—Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the United States, and Yemen—are known to have put juvenile offenders to death since 1990.
"Virginia is flouting worldwide consensus," said Michael Bochenek, counsel to the Children's Rights Division of Human Rights Watch. "Governor Gilmore should stop these executions, and the state should abolish this appalling practice once and for all."
Thomas's execution is set for Monday, January 10; Roach's execution date is scheduled for January 13. In the last decade, Virginia has carried out only one other juvenile death sentence: that of Dwayne Allen Wright, in 1998. Including Roach and Thomas, four juvenile offenders sit on Virginia's death row.
The only state that has executed more juvenile offenders in the last ten years is Texas, which imposed five such death sentences in the past decade and has scheduled three additional juvenile executions in the next two months.
"No one should be executed for crimes committed as a child," said Bochenek. "Children simply cannot be expected to have adult maturity, experience, judgment, or discipline."
For Further Information, Contact:
Michael Bochenek (212) 216-1245 or (917) 868-3568
Allyson Collins (202) 612-4354