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Bethel University Cruel and Unusual Punishment in the Eighth Amendment Discussion

Bethel University Cruel and Unusual Punishment in the Eighth Amendment Discussion

Question Description

I’m working on a law discussion question and need an explanation to help me study.

In the United States, the juvenile justice system began in New York and Massachusetts and subsequently spread to Illinois and California. “The history of the juvenile justice system is reviewed tracing the development of the rehabilitation model that presumes that behavioral problems in youth will lessen as they grow older and their brain and nervous system mature.” (Akl et al., 2020, p. 261-276). The primary route for dealing with adolescents convicted of criminal charges in the United States is the juvenile justice system. The system comprises federal and state governments and local jurisdictions that share sovereign police power under the United States Constitution’s joint authority. To rehabilitate juveniles intervening in delinquent conduct via police, judicial, and correctional intervention. The juvenile justice system is based on the premise that acting early in delinquent behavior would prevent teenagers from becoming criminals as adults.

Roper v. Simmons (2005) was a crucial case in which the United States Supreme Court declared that death punishment for offenses committed while under 18 is unconstitutional. The 5-4 judgment reversed Stanford v. Kentucky, in which the court affirmed the death penalty for criminals aged 16 or older and invalidated legislation in 25 states. In 1993, Christopher Simmons, a 17-year-old, and two younger colleagues, Charles Benjamin and John Tessmer, concocted a plan to assassinate Shirley Nite Crook in Missouri. The goal was to break in, commit burglary, and murder while tying up a victim. When the three met in the middle of the night, Tessmer dropped out of the arrangement. Simmons and Benjamin broke into Mrs. Nite Crook’s house, tied her wrists, and covered her eyes. They drove her to a state park and threw her off a bridge. She was later found drowned.

When the case went to trial, the evidence was overwhelming. Simmons confessed to the murder, prepared a videotaped recreation at the crime scene, and Tessmer testified against him, demonstrating that the murder was planned. Simmons discussed the strategy ahead of time and later bragged about the crime. The defendant was found guilty by the jury. Despite his lack of a criminal record and elderly age, the jury recommended that he be executed, which the trial court did. Simmons petitioned the trial court to reverse the conviction and sentence, citing ineffective assistance of counsel as one of the reasons. Simmons claimed that his age, and thus impulsiveness, as well as a troubled past, should have been discussed at the sentencing phase. After the trial court dismissed his request, Simmons filed an appeal.

The courts supported the death penalty as the case advanced through the legal system. On the other hand, Simmons filed a new petition for state post-conviction relief in light of the 2002 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Atkins v. Virginia, which outlawed the death penalty for intellectually challenged people. According to the Missouri Supreme Court, “a national consensus has emerged against the execution of young criminals,” and such punishment now violates the Eighth Amendment’s clause against cruel and unusual punishment. Simmons was condemned to life in prison with no chance of parole.

The state of Missouri petitioned the United States Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case. On October 13, 2004, It was an Eighth Amendment appeal that questioned the legitimacy of capital punishment for teenagers in the context of their crimes. This case outlawed the execution of minors between the ages of 13 and 17. “Stanford v. Kentucky” previously allowed for the death penalty at the age of 16 or 17 in 1989 in the same day the Supreme Court held that it was okay to execute people with mental disabilities; However, in Atkins v. v. Virginia, the Supreme Court found that the execution of the mentally disabled was considered cruel and unusual punishment in 2002 the court declared that executing a person who was under the age of 18 at the time of the crime was an affront to modern morality The majority referred to a body of studies which showed that children are less mature and responsible than adults. Adolescents were found to be present in practically every category of hazard. In acknowledgment of the youthfulness and incapability of teenagers, every state barred anyone under the age of 18 from serving on juries or marrying without parental consent. Adolescents also appear to be more open to the impacts and external influences, such as peer pressure. They have less control or have had less experience with control over their surroundings.

According to the Court, executing perpetrators younger is supported by the national consensus. Before the judgment, 20 states allowed juveniles to be sentenced to death. Yet, just six of those states had executed juvenile offenders subsequently until now, five of the states that allowed the sentence had since abolished it.

Between 1976 and 2006, 22 people have been executed for crimes committed when they were under the age of 18 have been outlawed. All the executed men were male. Eleven of them were minors when they committed their respective crimes; Sean Sellers was 16 when he was executed in Oklahoma on February 4th, 1999. Because of the 38-year process, not one of the inmates was under 18 at execution. Although, in the Stanford v. Kentucky case, the Supreme Court agreed with this approach. Scalia criticized Justice Brennan’s dissent for the majority, referring to it as replacing jurists with philosopher-kings. Justice O’Connor was the only justice to agree.

Roper v. Simmons was recently reversed. Justice Kennedy agreed with Stanford as an associate justice but instead wrote the majority opinion in Roper. Justice O’Connor dissented. In 2005, 19 states (plus the federal government) mandated minimum age of 18; 5 states had established a minimum age of 17, and 14 states had either explicitly set a minimum age of 16 or were subject to the Supreme Court’s imposition of that minimum. In the case of Roper v. Simmons, at the time, there were 71 people on death row: thirteen in Alabama, five in Arizona, two in Florida, five in Georgia, five in Nevada, two in South Carolina, and six in Virginia.

The discussion is controversial because it is unusual. Traditionally, and historically, very few children have been put to death. “support for the death penalty, as evidenced by the number of juveniles sentenced to be executed, had been receding since 1999. For example, in 1999, 14 juveniles were sentenced to death. By contrast, two were sentenced to death in 2004.” (Benekos, & Merlo, 2019, p.102-127).

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