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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 210854 Find in a Library
Title: Supreme Court Bans Death Penalty for Under-18 Offenders
Journal: Corrections Today  Volume:67  Issue:5  Dated:August 2005  Pages:58-61
Author(s): Stanley E. Adelman
Date Published: August 2005
Page Count: 4
Document: PDF
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Based on the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Roper v. Simmons (March 2005), which prohibits the execution of offenders who were under 18 years old when the crime at issue was committed, this article examines the split in the Court regarding the interpretation of the eighth amendment; reviews the history of the Court's interpretation of this amendment; and notes evolving eighth amendment standards in correctional law.
Abstract: At issue in Roper v. Simmons and other death penalty cases has been the interpretation of the eighth amendment's prohibition against "cruel and unusual punishment." A general principle followed by the Court in its interpretation of the Constitution is to mirror the thoughts and values of its original framers; however, in interpreting the meaning of "cruel and unusual punishment," the Court's majorities have acknowledged that society's evolving standards of what is "cruel and unusual" has guided their interpretation of the Constitution. The decision in "Roper" was not unanimous, as Justice Scalia, writing for the minority (including Justice Thomas and Chief Justice Rehnquist), argued that the original intent of the framers in 1791 must be the standard for all time in all constitutional interpretations, regardless of evolving societal values. These divergent views are likely to remain on the Court with varying weight, depending on the Court's personnel, so the total abolition of the death penalty is not likely to occur any time soon. As with the death penalty, the Court's view on acceptable nonlethal punishments under the eighth amendment is also subject to change. Currently, the excessive use of force, including whipping and flogging, are prohibited, although they were not uncommon at the time the Constitution was ratified. 19 notes
Main Term(s): Juvenile sentencing
Index Term(s): Abolishment of capital punishment; Capital punishment; Cruel and unusual punishment; Juvenile capital punishment; US Supreme Court decisions
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