Death Penalty and Minors Recent Supreme Court Finding Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

death penalty and minors - recent Supreme Court finding

Death Penalty was extensively applied in the olden times across the world. The modern crusade for banning of capital punishment started in the 18th century with the writings of Montesquieu and also Voltaire. Some of the nations which took a lead in abolishing capital punishment are Venezuela in 1863, San Marino in 1865 and Costa Rica in 1877. Presently, more than 50% of the countries of the world have abolished the death penalty either by way of legal enactment or practice. The U.S. Supreme Court quashed state death penalty laws. But again in 1976, the Court restored the death penalty following the espousal of new procedures. Since 1982 till 1999, 250 to 350 persons were sentenced to death every year, however, in the last three years; the number of death sentences has come down remarkably. Among the 50 states, 13 states have abolished the death penalty and 5 more states have refrained from executing any convicts. However, the historic decision on March 1, 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court banned the death penalty intended for minors. Before this ruling, minors faced death penalty in most of the states where death penalty is being practiced. (Death Penalty: News Batch)

In the very recent judgment Roper vs. Simmons, No. 03-633, the U.S. Supreme Court by a vote of 5-4 on March 1, 2005 held the opinion that the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments prohibit the death sentence of criminals who were below the age of 18 while committing their crimes. Justice Kennedy penning for the majority stated that: the state has the capability to exact forfeiture of some of the most fundamental liberties; however the state cannot take away the life and his capability to achieve a mature realization of his own humanity. The Court reiterated the urgency of referring to the evolving norms of decorum which show the development of a maturing society and to ascertain that penalties are so lopsided so as to be brutal and bizarre. The Court articulated that the denunciation of the death penalty on minors in most of the states, the occasional application of the punishment even where it remains on the books and the continuous tendency towards eradication of the death penalty on minors exhibited a national consensus against the practice. (Roper v. Simmons, No. 03-633: DPIC Summary)

The Court established that in the modern era our society considers minors as unconditionally less guilty compared to the average criminal. The Supreme Court summarized the analogies between its review of the constitutionality of awarding the death sentence to the criminals who are minors and the constitutionality of also giving the death sentence to the mentally challenged. Before 2002 the Court had declined to unconditionally excuse mentally challenged persons from awarding the death penalty in Penry vs. Lynaugh, 492 U.S. 302 (1989). But in Atkins vs. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002) the Court gave its verdict that the norms of civility has evolved in the span of 13 years since the Penry case and that a national consensus has gathered ground against such death penalties exhibiting that executing the mentally challenged is absolutely brutal and bizarre type of punishment. Prior to this epoch making verdict, the Court decided in 1989 in the Stanford vs. Kentucky, 492 U.S. 361 (1989) that there was no constitutional impediment on awarding penalty to the 16 and 17-year youths.

Presently, the Court has come to the decision that because in the case of Stanford, a national consensus has formed against the execution of the criminals who are minors, the custom infringes the society's progressive system of decency. The Court annulled its verdict in the Stanford case, thus prescribing the minimum age for the death penalty at 18 years. In its explanation the Court substantiated that the basic criterion for arriving if the specific punishment infringes upon society's progressive norms of civility is objective proof of a national consensus as articulated by the legal rules and jury practices. The popular opinion revealed proper that 30 states have banned the death penalty on minors, inclusive of the 12 states which have done away with the death penalty absolutely. The Court also observed that juries sentenced criminals who are minors only in extreme cases and awarding of death sentence to the minors takes place occasionally. The Court discovered a continuous pattern in the direction of quashing the practice of sentencing the minor criminals and announced its verdict that the indecency of sentencing the minor criminals has gained a huge appreciation. (Roper v. Simmons, No. 03-633: DPIC Summary)

The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights observed with satisfaction that the U.S. Supreme Court, in its judgment on March 1, 2005 in the Roper vs. Simmons found that applying death penalty against the persons who were minors while committing the crime as unconstitutional. The Supreme Court maintained that the execution of minors represent "cruel and unusual punishment" within the construal of the 8th Amendment, as per the "evolving norms of decency that define the development of a maturing society" that the Court has since referred to in a previous judgments limiting the application of the death penalty against the mentally retarded and minors below 16 years of age. The Committee believes that Roper vs. Simmons is but a movement in the proper direction which must quickly be followed by further actions resulting in the absolute banning of the death penalty, which must be recognized as "cruel and unusual punishment" in every case. (U.S. Supreme Court outlaws the death penalty against minors: a step in the right direction)

The Committee once again reiterated the standing of the Assembly as articulated in Resolution 1349 of 2003- of total resistance to death penalty that does not have any legal place in the penal systems of modern civilized societies. The Committee believes that its application comprises torment and brutal and humiliating penalty and therefore a gross infringement of globally recognized human rights. Justice Kennedy admits the resolve that the death penalty is lopsided punishment in case of offenders below the 18 years finds corroboration in the harsh reality that the U.S. constitutes the sole nation in the world which officially approves the death penalty to the minors. The views of the world community, while not able to control our results, surely gives respected and remarkable confirmation for our independent judgments. (U.S. Supreme Court outlaws the death penalty against minors: a step in the right direction)

Before this historic decision, the U.S. was one of the only six nations in the world wherein the death penalty on minors was unlawful. Globally, since 2002, four out of six cases of death penalty were carried out in the U.S. The Director of Children Rights Division at Human Rights Watch, Lois Whitman has termed awarding the death penalty as inhuman. Due to the recent historic Supreme Court decision, the U.S. will now be able to earn prestige as a fair society in this score. The Supreme Court gave the verdict in the case of Christopher Simmons, who was taken into custody at the age of 17 years in Fenton Missouri, and awarded the death penalty for the killing of Shirley Crook. This decision will impact in excess of 70 minor criminals facing death row across 12 states. The initiative to put an end to the execution of minor criminals has resulted in the recent years to its banning in 19 states and the federal government and passing of legal statutes to ban the sentence in 6 more states at the minimum. Yet another 12 states do not allow the death penalty in any situation. The recent verdict of the U.S. adopts the fundamental norms of civility that have put forth across the nation. (U.S. Supreme Court Ends Child Executions)

International human rights law identifies the basic difference between the children and adults and with the passage of the recent historic verdict, U.S. constitutional law has now come to be at par with the international human rights law. International pacts and customary international law bans awarding the death penalty to criminals who are minors, even during war times. Since 1976, when the death penalty was again in vogue, 22 child offenders have been executed. Following the end of death penalty for minors with the verdict of the Supreme Court, juvenile death penalty is still applicable in just five nations such as China, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran, Nigeria, and Saudi Arabia. Human Rights Watch is against the death penalty in all circumstances. It has since sought to culminate the juvenile death penalty in the U.S. The basis of human rights is reverence for the inbuilt self-esteem and inviolability of every human being. These principles cannot be reconciled along with the death penalty which is unmatched in its extent of cruelty and brutality. (U.S. Supreme Court Ends Child Executions)

The recent statistics in the U.S. On the provision of death penalty for minors show that 31 states do not have death penalty for minors. There has been…

Sources Used in Document:


"Death Penalty" News Batch. (March, 2005) Accessed on 16 May, 2005

"Emerging National Consensus on the Juvenile Death Penalty." (1 March, 2005) scid=27 Accessed on 16 May, 2005

Lobe, Jim (10 March, 2005) "Supreme Court bans death penalty for minors." Accessed on 16 May, 2005

'Roper v. Simmons, No. 03-633: DPIC Summary." Retrieved from did=885 Accessed on 16 May, 2005

Cite This Term Paper:

"Death Penalty And Minors Recent Supreme Court Finding" (2005, May 19) Retrieved September 22, 2019, from

"Death Penalty And Minors Recent Supreme Court Finding" 19 May 2005. Web.22 September. 2019. <>

"Death Penalty And Minors Recent Supreme Court Finding", 19 May 2005, Accessed.22 September. 2019,