Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics & Public Policy
The Supreme Court in Roper v. Simmons 1 interpreted the Eighth Amendment to prohibit states from executing offenders for crimes they committed when younger than eighteen years of age. The Court relied on objective indicators of "evolving standards of decency," such as state statutes and jury decisions to support its judgment that a national consensus existed against executing adolescents. The Justices also conducted an independent proportionality analysis of youths' criminal responsibility and concluded that their reduced culpability warranted a categorical prohibition of execution. Juveniles' immature judgment, susceptibility to negative peer influences, and transitory personality development diminished their criminal responsibility. Because of their reduced culpability, the Court held that they could never deserve or receive the most severe sentence imposed on adults.
Barry C. Feld, A Slower Form of Death: Implications of Roper v. Simmons for Juveniles Sentenced to Life Without Parole, 22 Notre Dame J.L. Ethics & Pub. Pol'y 9 (2008), available at http://scholarship.law.umn.edu/faculty_articles/311.