The Death Penalty is a controversial topic on its own. However, if you add the possibility of a minor receiving the death penalty it gets even more interesting. The Supreme Court case of Roper v. Simmons was a perfect example of that. Roper v. Simmons presented the Supreme Court with two questions: 1) whether or not the execution of those who were sixteen or seventeen at the time of a crime is cruel and unusual punished and 2) does is violate the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment. The main audience for this particular case is the general American population, and specifically affects the juvenile population.
Christopher Simmons, seven months shy of his 18th birthday, planned and implemented the murder of an innocent woman.
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If this is the case, they should also be exempt from the death penalty, since juveniles have a greater claim than adults to be forgiven of circumstances that can lead to crime and deviant behavior. In addition, the defense introduced psychological and neurological evidence showing that adolescents, including sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds, lack sufficient brain and behavioral development to possess the requisite culpability. Though the Court recognized that juveniles are less experienced, educated, and intelligent than adults in Thompson, the Roper Court is, “unlikely to find the deficiencies of juveniles as great as those of the mentally retarded.” (THOMPSON v. OKLAHOMA, 487 U.S. 815 1988) Furthermore, Stanford’s explicit disapproval of scientific proof suggesting that juveniles are less culpable indicates that the Court is likely to find retribution can be sufficiently served. Finally, “juveniles will likely be found to be suitably deterred by the threat of the death penalty, especially since the same cognitive and behavioral abilities at issue in Stanford are under consideration in Roper.” (ATKINS v. VIRGINIA, 536 U.S. at 320. Pp. 5-17) Justice Stevens agreed with the majority opinion, but felt compelled to note that because our understanding of the Constitution does change from time to time, the Court could rightly examine the change in standards to interpret the Eighth Amendment. Yet Justices O’Connor and