Tags: Criminal law, Death penalty
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The case of Roper v. Simmons dealt with the constitutionality of executing juvenile offenders aged 15 to 18 who committed capital crimes. The Supreme Court ruled that executing juvenile offenders is unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment due to evolving standards of decency, the views of professional organizations and other nations, and the rarity of such executions. The Court is now reviewing whether the death penalty is a disproportionate punishment for juveniles, using objective indicia of consensus expressed by legislatures and their own independent judgment. The Court has concluded that the death penalty cannot be imposed on juvenile offenders based on retribution or deterrence, except in rare cases where a juvenile offender demonstrates sufficient psychological maturity and depravity. The judgment of the Missouri Supreme Court setting aside the sentence of death imposed upon Christopher Simmons is affirmed.
The passage discusses recent court decisions on the minimum age for the death penalty, voting, jury service, and marriage without parental or judicial consent in various states. The Court abolished the juvenile death penalty but acknowledges rare cases where a juvenile offender may merit a death sentence. Proportionality concerns can be addressed through individualized sentencing that takes into account the defendant's immaturity, susceptibility to outside pressures, and cognizance of the consequences of their actions. The lack of a clear and durable national consensus against the juvenile death penalty means that the Eighth Amendment does not currently forbid capital punishment of 17-year-old murderers in all cases. Justice Scalia dissents, arguing that the Court is disregarding the original meaning of the Constitution and relying on subjective views.
The Court's decision to ban the death penalty for murderers under 18 is flawed and contradicts the American Psychological Association's position. Juries should be able to determine if young murderers deserve the death penalty, and the Court must weigh aggravating and mitigating factors, including youth, in making individualized determinations. The Court's reliance on foreign laws is inconsistent and flawed, and its decisions should be treated as real law, democratically adopted by the American people and conclusively construed by the Court. Allowing lower courts to reinterpret the Eighth Amendment whenever they see fit destroys the reliability of case law and leads to arbitrariness and chaos.
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