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 Words in the News
  Douglas Thomas was executed in Virginia, America, for a crime he committed as a juvenile. Defenders of human rights criticised the execution, claiming that America is out-of-step with the rest of the world. The BBC's US correspondent in the US, Stephen Sakur, reported.
  AudioListen to the report in full
Electric chair

13th January 2000

Capital punishment in the US

 AudioListen to the first part of the report
   When he was seventeen years old Douglas Thomas shot his fourteen year old girlfriend’s parents while they were sleeping. Last night Thomas was executed by lethal injection. Before being taken to the execution chamber he acknowledged that he deserved punishment, but he said it was unfair that he was paying the ultimate price while his co-defendant, his girlfriend, who was charged as a juvenile, had the chance of a normal life.

lethal: something that can kill people

: a means of getting a drug into a person by using a syringe

execution chamber: a room in which criminals are put to death

ultimate price: here, the most powerful penalty that a judge can use - death

co-defendant: "co-" is used to form words meaning that someone does something with someone else. A defendant is the person accused of a crime in a trial: Douglas Thomas's girlfriend was accused with him

juvenile: a child or young person who is not yet old enough to be regarded as an adult by the Law

NEWS 2  AudioListen to the second part of the report

Opponents of the death penalty say America is out-of-step with the whole of the rest of the world. The US signed an International Charter prohibiting the execution of juveniles more than twenty years ago. But Congress insisted on an exclusion clause for seventeen-year-olds. The general public seems generally unmoved by the controversy. Only a handful of protesters gathered outside the prison where Douglas Thomas was executed.


death penalty: the punishment of death, used in some countries for people who have committed very serious crimes

out-of-step: not keeping in line with

Charter: a charter is a document describing the rights or principles of a group or organisation

prohibiting: not allowing

exclusion clause: a section of a legal document which makes an overall rule not apply to a particular person or group of people. In America juveniles are not allowed to be executed for any crimes they have committed. Congress has brought in a clause so that this rule does not apply to 17 year olds, only to those aged 16 or under

controversy: a disagreement about something that many people do not approve of which often leads to a lot of discussion and argument

handful: a small quantity of something


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