Juveniles

Supreme Court Bans Execution of Juvenile Offenders

By a vote of 5-4, the U.S. Supreme Court has declared the execution of juvenile offenders to be unconstitutional. Today's historic ruling in Roper v. Simmons holds that this practice violates the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishments. The decision will result in a new sentence for Christopher Simmons and likely new sentences for the 71 other juvenile offenders currently on state death rows across the country. Simmons' position was joined by many professional organizations including the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Bar Association, and by numerous countries from around the world. Prior to today's ruling, 19 states with the death penalty prohibited the execution of juvenile offenders. Twenty-two inmates have been executed for crimes committed when they were under the age of 18 since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.

NEW RESOURCE: Study Examines Mental Status and Childhood Backgrounds of Juveniles on Death Row

A recent study of 18 juvenile offenders on death row in Texas found that nearly all participants experienced serious head traumas in childhood and adolescence, came from extremely violent and/or abusive families, had one or more severe mental illnesses, and had signs of prefrontal brain dysfunction. The study, conducted by Dr. Dorothy Otnow Lewis of Yale along with other experts, suggests that most of the juvenile offenders on America's death rows suffer from serious conditions which "substantially exacerbate the already existing vulnerabilities of youth." In the study, Dr. Lewis and her colleagues reviewed all available medical, psychological, educational, social, and family data for each participant to clarify the ways in which these various aspects of development may have diminished a juvenile offender's judgment and self control.

Arizona Case Exposes Prosecutorial Misconduct and Wrongful Convictions

In an examination of the case against three men sentenced to death for a triple murder that occurred in Tucson's El Grande Market, reporter Jeffrey Toobin in the New Yorker describes the incidents that led to the fall of the lead prosecutor, Kenneth Peasley, for presenting false evidence in the case. Only one of the co-defendants, Martin Soto-Fong, remains on Arizona's death row. Of the other two defendants, Christopher McCrimmon was acquitted at a re-trial in 1997, and Andre Minnett had his conviction reversed in 1996, with subsequent prosecution barred on double jeopardy grounds in 2002 because of Peasely's intentional misconduct. In 2004, Peasley was disbarred for his actions in the El Grande case. Soto-Fong, who was 17-years-old and a foreign national when the crime occurred, is appealing in federal court and has maintained his innocence. Recently, a new witness has emerged pointing to other defendants and excluding the three who were originally convicted.

Psychiatrists Question Death for Teen Killers

Psychiatrists Question Death for Teen Killers
By PAUL DAVIES
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
May 26, 2004; Page B1


In 1993, when 17-year-old Christopher Simmons abducted and murdered his neighbor, little did he know that some of the nation's top brain researchers and psychiatrists would one day rush to his defense before the Supreme Court.

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New research shows stark differences in teen brains

May 11, 2004: Scripps Howard News Service

New research shows stark differences in teen brains

By Lee Bowman


Recent popular films depicting teenagers suddenly housed in adult bodies have more than a little truth in them.

The latest brain research has found strong evidence that when it comes to maturity, organization and control, key parts of the brain related to emotions, judgment and "thinking ahead" are the last to arrive.

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What Makes Teens Tick; A flood of hormones, sure. But also a host of structural changes in the brain. Can those explain the behaviors that make adolescence so exciting--and so exasperating?

Time Magazine

May 10, 2004

What Makes Teens Tick; A flood of hormones, sure. But also a host of structural changes in the brain. Can those explain the behaviors that make adolescence so exciting--and so exasperating?


By Claudia Wallis; Kristina Dell, with reporting by Alice Park/New York


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Recent Public Opinion on the Juvenile Death Penalty


NATIONAL POLLS
RETURN TO ROPER v. SIMMONS
STATE POLLS

NATIONAL POLLS

Polling Reveals Only a Minority of Americans Supports Execution of Juvenile Offenders
A series of public opinion polls reveals that only about a third of Americans support the death penalty as applied to
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Juvenile Offenders Executed, by State, 1976-2005


JUVENILE OFFENDERS EXECUTED, BY STATE, 1976-2005

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