The Eighth Amendment guarantees individuals the right not to be subjected to excessive sanctions. Instead, since our decision in Stanford, two States have expressly reaffirmed their support for this practice by enacting statutes setting 16 as the minimum age for capital punishment. The mistaken premise of the decision would have been frozen into constitutional law, making it difficult to refute and even more difficult to reject. §3—7—13—1 Lexis 1997 Iowa 18 Iowa Code §48A. Once the diminished culpability of juveniles is recognized, it is evident that the penological justifications for the death penalty apply to them with lesser force than to adults. We then must determine, in the exercise of our own independent judgment, whether the death penalty is a disproportionate punishment for juveniles. Very few, if any, countries other than the United States now permit this practice in law or in fact.
If anything, this shows that the impropriety of executing juveniles between 16 and 18 years of age gained wide recognition earlier than the impropriety of executing the mentally retarded. During this time, —areas of the brain responsible for processing information and storing memories—increases in size, particularly in the frontal lobe of the brain, as a result of an increase in the number of synaptic connections between nerve cells. The evidence of such consensus is similar, and in some respects parallel, to the evidence in Atkins: 30 States prohibit the juvenile death penalty, including 12 that have rejected it altogether and 18 that maintain it but, by express provision or judicial interpretation, exclude juveniles from its reach. This reality does not become controlling, for the task of interpreting the Eighth Amendment remains our responsibility. The Court ruled that a death sentence imposed on a minor violates the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. Parallel prohibitions are contained in other significant international covenants.
That same day the Court held, in Penry v. While his crime is a serious offense, was the sentence given just? First, the reservation was passed in 1992; since then, five States have abandoned capital punishment for juveniles. See Brief for Human Rights Committee of the Bar of England and Wales et al. His dissent cited a passage from in arguing that the role of the judiciary in the constitutional scheme is to interpret the law as formulated in democratically selected legislatures. It does not lessen fidelity to the Constitution or pride in its origins to acknowledge that the express affirmation of certain fundamental rights by other nations and peoples underscores the centrality of those same rights within our own heritage of freedom.
This case requires us to address, for the second time in a decade and a half, whether it is permissible under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States to execute a juvenile offender who was older than 15 but younger than 18 when he committed a capital crime. There is, to be sure, at least one difference between the evidence of consensus in Atkins and in this case. Here, as in Atkins, the objective evidence of a national consensus is weaker than in most prior cases in which the Court has struck down a particular punishment under the Eighth Amendment. Though the Court is correct that no State has lowered its death penalty age, both the Missouri and Virginia Legislatures—which, at the time of Stanford, had no minimum age requirement—expressly established 16 as the minimum. Even considering no criminal history and his age , the jury recommended a death sentence, which the trial court imposed. There are a number of crimes that beyond question are severe in absolute terms, yet the death penalty may not be imposed for their commission.
These qualities often result in impetuous and ill-considered actions and decisions. The evolving standards of decency that have driven our construction of this critically important part of the Bill of Rights foreclose any such reading of the Amendment. No ratifying country has entered a reservation to the provision prohibiting the execution of juvenile offenders. Code §121660 a 1 West 2002 Alaska 18 Alaska Stat. When Atkins was decided, 30 States prohibited the death penalty for the mentally retarded. It is interesting that whereas the Court is not content to accept what the States of our Federal Union say, but insists on inquiring into what they do specifically, whether they in fact apply the juvenile death penalty that their laws allow , the Court is quite willing to believe that every foreign nation—of whatever tyrannical political makeup and with however subservient or incompetent a court system—in fact adheres to a rule of no death penalty for offenders under 18. We must treat these decisions just as though they represented real law, real prescriptions democratically adopted by the American people, as conclusively rather than sequentially construed by this Court.
First, the reservation was passed in 1992; since then, five States have abandoned capital punishment for juveniles. For the reasons we have discussed, however, a line must be drawn. The judgment of the Missouri Supreme Court setting aside the sentence of death imposed upon Christopher Simmons is affirmed. The Court noted that 22 of the 37 death penalty States permitted the death penalty for 16-year-old offenders, and, among these 37 States, 25 permitted it for 17-year-old offenders. §572—2 1993 Idaho 18 Idaho Code §32—202 Michie 1996 Illinois 18 Ill. In the present case, too, even in the 20 States without a formal prohibition on executing juveniles, the practice is infrequent.
Kentucky, , rejected the proposition that the Constitution bars capital punishment for juvenile offenders younger than 18, a national consensus has developed against the execution of those offenders since Stanford. §37:1—6 West 2002 New Mexico 18 N. Impressive in Atkins was the rate of abolition of the death penalty for the mentally retarded. Moreover, even in the 20 States without a formal prohibition, the execution of juveniles is infrequent. Lynaugh, , 334, that the Eighth Amendment did not mandate a categorical exemption from the death penalty for mentally retarded persons because only two States had enacted laws banning such executions. Yet at least from the time of the Courts decision in Trop, the Court has referred to the laws of other countries and to international authorities as instructive for its interpretation of the s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishments.
We are obligated to weigh both the objective evidence of societal values and our own judgment as to whether death is an excessive sanction in the context at hand. I concurred in that judgment on narrower grounds. Most importantly, in Atkins there was significant evidence of opposition to the execution of the mentally retarded, but there was virtually no countervailing evidence of affirmative legislative support for this practice. This fact, coupled with the trend toward abolition of the juvenile death penalty, carries special force in light of the general popularity of anticrime legislation, Atkins, supra, at 315, and in light of the particular trend in recent years toward cracking down on juvenile crime in other respects, see H. The same reasoning applies to all juvenile offenders under 18. Simmons moved for the trial court to set aside the conviction and sentence, citing, in part, ineffective assistance of counsel.
Using duct tape to cover her eyes and mouth and bind her hands, the two perpetrators put Mrs. §510 2 West 2003 North Carolina 18 N. Blaskovich, A Comparative Analysis of Capital Punishment: Statutes, Policies, Frequencies, and Public Attitudes the World Over 25, 26, 29 2002. Many jurisdictions have abolished capital punishment altogether, while many others have determined that even the most heinous crime, if committed before the age of 18, should not be punishable by death. Khan, , 20 1997 emphasis added.