Supreme Court Ends Death Penalty for Juveniles

The Supreme Court on Tuesday abolished the death penalty for convicted killers who committed their crimes before the age of 18. The court ruling, closely divided at 5-to-4, affects 72 people in 20 states. The practice will also be banned for any future crimes.

Executions for those 15 and younger when they committed their crimes were outlawed in 1988. Tuesday's ruling prevents states from making 16- and 17-year-olds eligible for execution.

The Ruling

The Supreme Court raises the eligible age for the death penalty.

The executions, the court said, violate the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Juveniles on Death Row

Currently, 72 inmates on death rows were juveniles when they committed their crimes, according to the Death Penalty Information Center:

. Texas: 29

. Alabama: 14

. Mississippi: 5

. Arizona, Louisiana, North Carolina: 4 each

. Florida, South Carolina: 3 each

. Georgia, Pennsylvania: 2 each

. Nevada, Virginia: 1

Arkansas, Delaware, Idaho, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Utah allow the execution of juveniles but do not have any on their

death rows.

Source: AP

"The age of 18 is the point where society draws the line for many purposes between childhood and adulthood. It is, we conclude, the age at which the line for death eligibility ought to rest," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion.



Major Supreme Court Rulings on the Death Penalty

'Justice Talking' Debate

1972, Furman v. Georgia. The court rules the death penalty does not violate the Constitution, but the manner of its application in many states does. The court notes capital punishment was likely to be imposed in a discriminatory way and that blacks were far more likely to be executed than whites. The decision essentially ends the practice of executions.

1976, Gregg v. Georgia. A Georgia death penalty statute is held constitutional, a ruling that sets the stage for resumption of executions.

1987, McCleskey v. Georgia. Justices rule state death penalty laws are constitutional even when statistics indicate they have been applied in racially biased ways.

1988, Thompson v. Oklahoma. The court decides people younger than 16 when they committed a crime may not be executed.

2002, Atkins v. Virginia. Justices rule that executing mentally retarded criminals violates the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Writing for the majority, Justice John Paul Stevens cites a "national consensus" against executing a killer who may lack the intelligence to fully understand his crime.

2005, Roper v. Simmons. The court rules the Constitution forbids the execution of killers who were under 18 when they committed their crimes, ending a practice used in 20 states. Justice Anthony Kennedy cites a "national consensus" against the practice.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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