On March 1, 2005 in the case of Roper v. Simmons, the US Supreme Court, held in a 5-4 vote that the death penalty, as applied to those under eighteen years of age at the time of the crime, violates evolving standards of decency and is prohibited by the Eighth Amendment ban on "cruel and unusual punishment" of the US Constitution.
This followed an earlier decision by the Missouri Supreme Court on August 26, 2003, in Simmons v. Roper, which held that the execution of juvenile offenders in the state of Missouri violates evolving standards of decency and is prohibited by the Eighth Amendment ban on "cruel and unusual punishment" of the US Constitution. The state of Missouri appealed to the US Supreme Court. On January 26, 2004 the US Supreme Court granted certiorari in the case of Simmons v. Roper and agreed to consider the constitutionality of the death penalty as applied to juvenile offenders. As can be seen above, the Court decided in favour of Simmons.
Correspondingly, the juvenile death penalty section of this website now consists of archived information.
Roper v. Simmons
US Supreme Court: Background of the Juvenile Death Penalty
In 1988, the US Supreme Court in Thompson v. Oklahoma held that it constituted "cruel and unusual punishment" to execute persons who were under 16 years of age at the time of the offense and thus was prohibited by the Eight Amendment of the US Constitution. Thompson was 15 years old when he actively participated in a brutal murder, but the District Attorney filed a petition to have him tried as an adult, which the trial court granted. Thompson was then convicted and sentenced to death, a decision the Court of Criminal appeals of Oklahoma confirmed. The case was accepted by the US Supreme Court, which then determined that the execution of offenders younger than 16 years of age at the time of the crime was unconstitutional because it violated the Eight Amendment of the US Constitution.
One year later, in Stanford v. Kentucky, the US Supreme Court found that there was not a national consensus against the execution of those aged 16 or 17 at the time of the offense and that such executions were thus constitutional.
In 2002, the US Supreme Court was again faced with the opportunity to revisit the issue in the cases of Kevin Stanford and Toronto Patterson, but declined to do so. Nonetheless, unprecedented dissents in both cases indicated that the juvenile death penalty should be re-examined at the earliest opportunity. Yet, when the occasion once more arose to review the matter, the US Supreme Court denied certiorari in the case of Stanford v. Kentucky, without comment. Scott Hain was then executed on 3 April, 2003, becoming the last juvenile in the US to be executed.