By focusing research on the death penalty on state laws, psychologists can inform the debate on the death penalty. More recently, the Supreme Court used the same approach in Roper v. Simmons (125 S.Ct. 1183 ) when she ruled that it was unconstitutional “to impose the death penalty on offenders under 18 years of age at the time of their crimes” (page 1200). With regard to the evolution of standards of decency, Justice Kennedy calculated that 30 states had prohibited the death penalty for juveniles (12 had no death penalty and 18 had the death penalty but had prohibited it for juvenile offenders). Five states that had previously allowed the juvenile death penalty had abolished it, and no state had added it, suggesting that there was at least consistency in reducing the availability of the juvenile death penalty across states. In addition, States that have authorized the death penalty for minors have very rarely used. In the previous 10 years, only three States had used this form of punishment against juvenile offenders. As the execution date of federal death row inmate Brandon Bernard (pictured with his family) approached Dec.
10, 2020, jurors and a former prosecutor in his case came forward and said the life of the minor abuser. Children are not as guilty as adults for their actions. In the context of the death penalty, this principle has led to a debate about the age that is too young to be executed. International human rights law has long prohibited the use of the death penalty against persons under the age of 18 at the time. See Juvenile Executions Outside the United States In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court brought the U.S. into line with this international standard and ruled that the U.S. Constitution also protects people from being sentenced to death for crimes committed before the age of 18. For more information, see the Roper v. Simmons resource page.
Gary Graham was convicted of murder at the age of 17. Under Texas law, he was entitled to the death penalty, although he would not have been in many other states. Texas law allowed his age to be cited as a reason for the jury to believe Graham would not pose a threat to the community in the future and should therefore receive a life sentence. Graham argued in his appeals that some jurors might instead believe that his age would actually make him more likely to commit other crimes, and thus serve as an “aggravating factor” that contributed to the likelihood of a death sentence. Under Texas law, the jury`s determination of future dangerousness generally resulted in a death sentence. Graham was executed in 2000, five years before the U.S. Supreme Court banned the execution of accused juveniles. The debate about whether even the age of 18 is too young to take full responsibility for a heinous crime has continued.
Some have suggested that 21 would be a more appropriate age, both because of the rights and duties conferred by society at that age, and because new brain research shows that critical areas of the brain in terms of judgment, thrills and coherent thinking do not mature until their mid-twenties. The Court`s decision on the application of the death penalty to juveniles has led to other decisions on the imposition of life sentences without the possibility of parole for the same group. “The age of 18 is when society draws the line between childhood and adulthood for many purposes. This is, we conclude, the age at which the eligibility limit to die should rest,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion. While young people can and should be held accountable for their actions, new scientific evidence shows that they cannot be held accountable to the same extent as adults. Studies from Harvard Medical School, the National Institute of Mental Health and UCLA`s Department of Neuroscience show that the frontal and prefrontal lobes of the brain that regulate impulse control and judgment are not fully developed in adolescents. Development was not completed until between the ages of 18 and 22. These results confirm that adolescents generally have a greater tendency to impulsivity, make unhealthy judgments or arguments, and are less aware of the consequences of their actions. DPIC has closely followed developments in state legislation and court decisions regarding the appropriate age for the death penalty. The relevant decision of the Supreme Court is analyzed in detail. DPIC also provides extensive research from others on the use of the death penalty for juveniles throughout U.S. history, with statistics on sentences, executions, and race of defendants.
In Thompson v. Oklahoma (1988), the Supreme Court declared for the first time unconstitutional the imposition of the death penalty for crimes committed at the age of 15 or younger. But in Stanford v. 1989 Kentucky, he upheld the death penalty for crimes committed at the age of 16 or 17. The section of his opinion on Justice Scalia`s plurality criticized Justice Brennan`s dissent, accusing him of “replacing the judges of the law with a committee of philosopher-kings.”  Justice O`Connor was the key voice in both cases, as he was the only judge to agree in both cases. As a society, we recognize that children under the age of 18 cannot and do not want to function as adults. For this reason, the law takes special measures to protect children from the consequences of their actions and often attempts to mitigate the cause of harm when children make poor decisions by giving them a second chance. The law prohibits people under the age of eighteen from voting to serve in the military and on juries, but in some states they can be executed for crimes committed before reaching adulthood.
The U.S. Supreme Court prohibits execution for crimes committed at the age of fifteen or younger. Nineteen states have laws that authorize the execution of people who committed crimes at the age of sixteen or seventeen. Since 1973, 226 death sentences have been imposed on minors. Twenty-two juvenile offenders have been executed and 82 remain on death row. Death is the harshest punishment the government can impose in a case, and as this article points out, there are restrictions on when it can be applied. If you or someone you know is charged with a capital crime, the death penalty could be a possible outcome. That`s why it`s important to have a strong legal team that defends your interests. Contact a local criminal defense attorney to learn more about your rights and options. Since 1642, in the Thirteen Colonies, in the United States under the Articles of Confederation and in the United States under the Constitution, an estimated 364 young people have been killed by individual states (colonies, before 1776) and the federal government. Although Texas` death penalty law does not formally address the aggravating and mitigating factors present in most other state laws, its law was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1976 (Jurek v. Texas).
In a subsequent opinion, however, the court held that states could not prevent the defense from presenting relevant mitigating evidence (Lockett v. Ohio), and that the convicted person must consider that evidence when choosing between life imprisonment and death (Eddings v. Oklahoma). At the time of the Roper v. Simmons, 71 youths were awaiting execution on death row: 13 in Alabama; four in Arizona; three in Florida; two in Georgia; four in Louisiana; five in Mississippi; one in Nevada; four in North Carolina; two in Pennsylvania; three in South Carolina; 29 in Texas; and one in Virginia.  At least one in seven prisoners sentenced to death in the United States since executions resumed in 1977 had legal remedies in their case that would render their execution unconstitutional, according to a new study from Cornell University School of Law. Few young people were executed for their crimes. Even when minors have been sentenced to death, few executions have taken place. In the United States, for example, minors under the age of 18 were executed at a rate of 20 to 27 per decade, or about 1.6 to 2.3 percent of all executions from 1880 to the 1920s. This figure dropped markedly when only 3 minors were executed between January 1977 and November 1986.  Executions of persons under the age of 15 at the time of their crimes were prohibited in 1988.