Roper v. Simmons
In 2004, NJDC, Juvenile Law Center, and several other interested organizations filed an amicus brief in the United States Supreme Court on behalf of Christopher Simmons, a Missouri juvenile who was convicted of homicide and sentenced to death. The case challenged the constitutionality of the juvenile death penalty—specifically arguing that the execution of an individual for crimes that he or she committed before the age of 18 constitutes cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. The amicus brief argued that it was unconstitutional to sentence juvenile offenders to death because adolescents and adults are developmentally different in critical areas, such as impulse control and the ability to understand the consequences of their actions.
In a landmark ruling, on March 1, 2005, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the juvenile death penalty violates the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. The Court grounded its decision in developmental and scientific research demonstrating that juveniles possess a greater capacity for rehabilitation than adults, are more susceptible to negative peer pressure, and are immature and impaired in their judgment and decision-making. The Court also held that executing juveniles served no legitimate penological purpose.
Amicus Brief Filed: June 19, 2004 (download .pdf)
Amicus Brief Discusses: Adolescent Development; Juvenile Death Penalty