THE JUVENILE DEATH PENALTY
In recent months and years there have been numerous instances of kids committing horrific crimes that have received national new coverage. The most recent of these events was a mass shooting at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas. A 17 year old student entered the school and began shooting, killing 10 and wounding 13 more. Another incident, also in Texas, involved Taymor McIntyre. Taymor McIntyre was a 17 year old accused of 2 murders and a robbery. Both of these cases have garnered national attention and have lead to some heated debates online.
D.L. Hughley, the comedian and T.I., a rapper, weighed in on these two cases on line as can be seen here https://www.vibe.com/2018/05/dl-hughley-ti-comment-sante-fe-shooting-tay-k-texas/. Hughley and T.I. claimed that a double standard was at play because Taymore McIntyre, a black youth, was facing the death penalty and the Santa Fe School shooter, a white youth, was not. The only problem with their argument is that they are completely wrong. Neither of these individuals will face the death penalty as the were under the age of 18 at the time they allegedly committed their respective crimes. The United States did execute juveniles in the past but a string of relatively recent Supreme Court cases has put an end to the juvenile death penalty in America.
Thomson v. Oklahoma, Stanford v. Kentucky and Roper v. Simmons are three seminal cases from the Supreme Court dealing with the juvenile death penalty.
THOMPSON V. OKLAHOMA, 487 U.S. 815 (1988)
William Wayne Thompson was a 15 year old who was convicted of First Degree Murder in Oklahoma for the brutal killing of his brother-in-law. Upon his conviction Thompson was sentenced to death and his case was eventually appealed the the United States Supreme Court.
The United States Supreme Court found that the execution of an individual who was under 16 years old at the time of the commission of the crime was unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment’s “Cruel and Unusual” Clause. The court noted that it was the “evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society” that lead them to their ultimate conclusion.
STANFORD V. KENTUCKY, 492 U.S. 361 (1989)
One year after Thompson v. Oklahoma was decided the United States Supreme Court took up another juvenile death penalty in the case of Stanford v. Kentucky. At the time of the murder and rape Kevin Stanford was 17 years and 4 months old. Stanford was convicted of murder, sodomy and robbery and was sentenced to death. His case was appealed to the United States Supreme Court claiming that the execution of an individual who was a juvenile at the time of the commission of the the crime was unconstitutional.
On appeal Stanford argued that the execution of juveniles was contrary to the “evolving standards of decency” and therefore unconstitutional. In a 5-4 decision the court held that there was no national consensus on the execution of individuals that were 16 or 17 at the time of the commission of the murder, therefore the execution did not run contrary to the “evolving standards of decency” and was not unconstitutional under the 8th Amendment’s cruel and unusual clause.
This case reaffirmed states ability to execute individuals sentenced to death for crimes that they committed when they were over the age of 16.
ROPER V. SIMMONS, 543 U.S. 551 (2005)
Christopher Simmons was 17 years old when he committed the crime for which he was eventually sentenced to death. Simmons, along with his codefendant, planned to rob and murder Shirley Cook and on September 9, 1993 they carried out their plan. On that September night Simmons and his co-defendant broke into Ms. Cook’s home, robbed her, then tied her to a chair and drove her to a State park where they threw her off a bridge. The evidence against Simmons was overwhelming and he was sentenced to death. His death sentence was appealed an eventually reached the United States Supreme Court.
In 2005 the Supreme Court heard the case of Roper v. Simmons. In a 5-4 opinion the court found that under the “evolving standards of decency” test it was unconstitutional to execute a defendant who committed the murder when he/she was under the age of 18.
What if they try them as an adult? It doesn’t matter. If they were under the age of 18 at the time the crime was committed they cannot face the death penalty. The fact is that most juveniles charged with murder will be tried as an adult. In some states the juvenile will automatically be considered an adult under the law when they are charged with murder, and in other states a juvenile court will have to certify them as an adult, but either way they are getting tried as an adult. Bottom line, any person under 18, no matter what crime they commit, cannot be executed in the United States, even if they are tried as an adult.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a felony of misdemeanor contact Mark Cagle and Stephen Lee immediately to insure you receive the best representation possible.
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