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Supreme Court Declares Juvenile Death Penalty Unconstitutional

Written by NYRA Mar 02, 2005

In a 5-4 decision handed down yesterday, the US Supreme Court ended the death penalty for people under 18. NYRA members are encouraged to read the full decision of this case, Roper vs. Simmons. While good for ending the sick hypocrisy involved in applying the heftiest adult penalty on minors with few adult rights, this case has set precedent with long term negative consequences for youth rights. The majority opinion was written by Justice Kennedy, in it he makes three chief points that seek to under cut the rationality and competency of youth. Justice Kennedy states that, “First, as any parent knows and as the scientific and sociological studies respondent and his amici cite tend to confirm, ‘[a] lack of maturity and an underdeveloped sense of responsibility are found in youth more often than in adults and are more understandable among the young. These qualities often result in impetuous and ill-considered actions and decisions.'” He then goes on to assert “juveniles are more vulnerable or susceptible to negative influences and outside pressures, including peer pressure.” and thirdly maintains the personality and character of youth is not yet fully developed. It is likely these assertions will come up again in future cases deciding the rights of youth, and thus NYRA looks at this case warily. A longer youth rights perspective can be read here. However one weighs the costs vs. benefits of this case, it is an important case in youth rights history.

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BY Alex Koroknay-Palicz
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