A central issue before the court, which is expected to rule in the next few months, is whether the plummeting number of such death sentences - there were two last year - lends weight to the argument that putting youths on death row amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. Supporters of the juvenile death penalty argue that the small number proves instead that the system works and that juries are making discerning choices on whom to sentence to death, taking due account of the defendants' youth and reserving the ultimate punishment for the worst of the worst.
I'm opposed to the death penalty, but I think the supporters here have the better interpretation of the decreasing number. If the opponents' interpretation were taken seriously, that would also mean that, in general, for all murders, the more strictly courts and juries restrain themselves and reserve the death penalty for the most truly heinous murders, the more they generate evidence that the death penalty is cruel and unusual and therefore unconstitutional. Those who want the death penalty to be available to express the ultimate condemnation of a crime would need to hope to see it imposed more frequently, lest they lose it altogether.