The Constitutionality Of The Death Penalty

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The constitutionality of the death penalty has been a heated topic of discussion for decades. The history of the death penalty in the United States is extensive; from a suspension to a reinstating and individual statutes throughout the 50 states. One of the most controversial of the Supreme Court cases involving the death penalty is Roper v. Simmons. In 2005, the Supreme Court ruled that the execution of people who were under 18 at the time of their crimes violates the federal constitutional guarantee against cruel and unusual punishments. In making its decision, the Court considered both the emerging national consensus and psychological organizations citing new evidence of delayed brain maturation that impacts culpability (define this…show more content…
Simmons whole case relied upon this decision; he argued that minors could also not be held fully responsible for their crimes because, like those with mental deficiencies, they had not reached full intellectual maturity and therefore did not possess the culpability necessary to justify the imposition of the death penalty (Myers, 2006). Roper, similar to Atkins, stripped the states of their autonomy to make individualized determinations of culpability for juvenile offenders. The Supreme Court’s decision was rooted in two key findings. The Court believed there was an emerging national consensus opposing the death penalty. Thirty states did not permit the juvenile death penalty, of which eighteen permitted the death penalty for adults but not juveniles, and twelve that abolished the death penalty entirely. In addition, the Court found that many foreign nations prohibited the execution of minors – there was a strong international consensus (Myers, 2006). The ruling also relied on advances in psychology and psychiatry in juvenile development. This evidence suggests that juveniles are less culpable than adults and are more apt to behavioral change. Juveniles have less self-control, are less mature, and their brains are underdeveloped (Myers, 2006). Adolescents, especially those at risk, can experience peer group pressure, a troubled home life, social isolation, etc., but these crime risk factors generally change over time, especially with early
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