This sample essay on Roper V Simmons offers an extensive list of facts and arguments related to it. The essay’s introduction, body paragraphs, and the conclusion are provided below.
The Death Penalty is a controversial topic on its own. However, if you add the possibility of a minor receiving the death penalty it gets even more interesting. The Supreme Court case of Roper v. Simmons was a perfect example of that. Roper v. Simmons presented the Supreme Court with two questions: 1) whether or not the execution of those who were sixteen or seventeen at the time of a crime is cruel and unusual punished and 2) does is violate the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment.
The main audience for this particular case is the general American population, and specifically affects the juvenile population. Christopher Simmons, seven months shy of his 18th birthday, planned and implemented the murder of an innocent woman. Descriptions of the murder are thoroughly chilling. Reports exposed that Simmons and an accomplice bound the woman in tape and dropped her off a bridge, drowning her in the waters below.
Simmons later confessed to the crime and even participated in a videotaped reenactment of it.
If he had been an adult at the time of the murder, Simmons’ case would not raise any constitutional questions. But due to his age, the issue before the court was whether the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments allowed the United States to “execute a juvenile offender who was older then 15 but younger than 18 when he committed a capital crime.
” Justice Kennedy affirmed the previous ruling in the Missouri Supreme Court. As a result, Simmons could not be considered for the death penalty due to his age, and his sentence remained at life in prison without parole.
Justice Kennedy went on to say, “it is the court’s reasoning that makes this case controversial, due to evolving standards of decency” (ROPER v. SIMMONS, (03-633) 543 U. S. 551 2005) since the ruling in Stanford v. Kentucky (1989), the Court has grounds to rule against the juvenile death penalty. In the Stanford ruling, the Court held that juveniles under the age of 15 could not be executed, “due to views that have been expressed by respected professional organizations, and leading members of the Western European community. ” (STANFORD v. KENTUCKY, 492 U. S. 361 1989) The Court later ruled in Atkins v.
Virginia (2002) that, “mentally retarded persons were exempt from the death penalty as well, a further sign of society’s changing standards. ” (ATKINS v. VIRGINIA, 536 U. S. 320 2002) The decision in Atkins explained that due to their impairments, “it is highly unlikely that such offenders could ever deserve capital punishment. ” (ATKINS v. VIRGINIA, 536 U. S. 320 2002) The reasoning in Atkins is applied to the Simmons decision. Kennedy argues that because individuals under 18 are categorically less culpable than the average criminal, they should not deserve the death penalty.
Kennedy adds that there are three differences between juveniles under 18 and adult offenders. First, “juveniles often lack the maturity found in adults, a trait that is understandable among the young and adolescents are overrepresented statistically in virtually every category of reckless behavior. ” (ROPER v. SIMMONS, (03-633) 543 U. S. 551 2005) The second difference is, “that they are more vulnerable to negative influences or outside pressures and this could lead to deviant behavior. ” (ROPER v. SIMMONS, (03-633) 543 U. S. 51 2005) Lastly, Kennedy asserts that “the character of a juvenile is not as well formed as an adult and that personality traits in adolescents are transitory. ” (ROPER v. SIMMONS, (03-633) 543 U. S. 551 2005) Moreover, because of the comparative immaturity and irresponsibility of such people, Kennedy logically notes that nearly every state bars people under 18 from voting, serving on juries or marrying without parental consent. If this is the case, they should also be exempt from the death penalty, since juveniles have a greater claim than adults to be forgiven of circumstances that can lead to crime and deviant behavior.
In addition, the defense introduced psychological and neurological evidence showing that adolescents, including sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds, lack sufficient brain and behavioral development to possess the requisite culpability. Though the Court recognized that juveniles are less experienced, educated, and intelligent than adults in Thompson, the Roper Court is, “unlikely to find the deficiencies of juveniles as great as those of the mentally retarded. ” (THOMPSON v. OKLAHOMA, 487 U. S. 15 1988) Furthermore, Stanford’s explicit disapproval of scientific proof suggesting that juveniles are less culpable indicates that the Court is likely to find retribution can be sufficiently served. Finally, “juveniles will likely be found to be suitably deterred by the threat of the death penalty, especially since the same cognitive and behavioral abilities at issue in Stanford are under consideration in Roper. ” (ATKINS v. VIRGINIA, 536 U. S. at 320. Pp. 5-17) Justice Stevens agreed with the majority pinion, but felt compelled to note that because our understanding of the Constitution does change from time to time, the Court could rightly examine the change in standards to interpret the Eighth Amendment. Yet Justices O’Connor and Scalia felt that there were obvious problems with the Court’s blanket ruling. They were especially concerned that the Court felt a “national consensus” against the juvenile death penalty existed. A large number of the American population are anti death penalty and even more passionate against it when it comes to juveniles facing this sentence.
According to Justice Kennedy, 30 states now prohibit the juvenile death penalty – 12 that have eliminated capital punishment altogether and 18 that exclude juveniles from its reach. Yet Justice Scalia blasts this argument noting, “that none of the Court’s previous cases that dealt with alleged constitutional limitation upon the death penalty has counted states that have eliminated the death penalty entirely. ” (ROPER v. SIMMONS, (03-633) 543 U. S. 51 2005) Justice O’Connor adds that the “halting pace of change” in this situation is far different from the “extraordinary wave of legislative action” that preceded the court’s ruling in Atkins. This gives the dissenters “reason to pause,” because the national sentiment does not seem as concrete as Justice Kennedy asserts. However, the 5-4 Supreme Court decision in Roper v. Simmons now prevents anyone under the age of 18 from being executed. The dissenting opinions also focused on the Court’s reasoning that juveniles are “categorically less culpable than the average criminal. Both Justices disagree with this reasoning, and Justice O’Connor points out that though a 17 year old murderer is normally less responsible than an adult, does not mean he could be sufficiently culpable to merit the death penalty. O’Connor points out that Simmons bragged he could “get away with murder” because of his age. Showing a sign that he was not deterred by the idea of capital punishment. The fact that every detail was planned in advance explains how Simmons possesses a consciousness materially more depraved than that of the average murderer.
Justice Scalia cites an amicus brief by the American Psychological Association, which argued, “Adolescents possessed effective skills in reasoning about moral dilemmas and understanding social rules and laws… and could make decisions like having an abortion without parental approval. ” (APA 2004) Surely, if juveniles are mature enough to decide on an abortion, they can be mature enough to commit murder. Furthermore, Scalia discussed the amici briefs describe, “Additional examples of murders committed by individuals under 18 that involve truly monstrous acts. (APA 2004) While juvenile executions are rare, Justices O’Connor and Scalia believe that it was a mistake to ban them completely. In their mind, not only are some adolescents capable of heinous acts, they should be punished accordingly. References American Psychological Association. Roper. D. P. v. Simmons, C. (2004). Brief from the Psychological Association, & Missouri Psychological Association. as Amici Curiae supporting respondent July 2004. Retrieved May 20, 2011 from http://www. apa. org/about/offices/ogc/amicus/roper. pdf ATKINS v.
VIRGINIA, 536 U. S. 320 (2002) Retrieved May 20, 2011 from FindLaw: http://caselaw. findlaw. com/va-supreme-court/1427407. html ROPER v. SIMMONS, (03-633) 543 U. S. 551 (2005) 112 S. W. 3d 397, affirmed Retrieved May 20, 2011 from http://www. law. cornell. edu/supct/html/03-633. ZD1. html STANFORD v. KENTUCKY, 492 U. S. 361 (1989) Retrieved May 20, 2011 from FindLaw: http://laws. findlaw. com/us/492/361. html THOMPSON v. OKLAHOMA, 487 U. S. 815 (1988) Retrieved May 20, 2011 from FindLaw: http://laws. findlaw. com/us/487/815. html