Juveniles and the Death Penalty
ROPER v. SIMMONS, No. 03-0633
In March 2005, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty for those who had committed their crimes at under 18 years of age was cruel and unusual punishment and hence barred by the Constitution. For more information, see: Roper v. Simmons Resource Page
On August 4, 2017, a Kentucky trial court, relying on new evidence about the brains of adolescents, expanded Roper's proscription against executing juvenile offenders to include defendants younger than age 21. In Commonwealth v. Bredhold, the court credited the scientific evidence presented by the defense and found that the same considerations that led to the Supreme Court's ruling in Roper applied to defendants aged 18-20. Holding that applying the death penalty to defendants under age 21 violated the Eighth Amendment's evolving standards of decency, the Fayette County Circuit Court barred Commonwealth prosecutors from pursuing the death penalty against Travis Bredhold, who was 18 years old when the murder with which he was charged was committed. Prosecutors are expected to appeal the trial court's ruling.
On September 6, 2017, the Fayette County Circuit Court entered a similar order in the case of Commonwealth v. Diaz, the case in which it actually took the testimony on new scientific evidence relating to brain maturation and development.
For more discussion of these issues, see:
The Case Against Execution of People who Were Youths Under the Age of Twenty-One Years Old at the Time of the Offense by Hollis A. Whitson (Revised October 17, 2018)
American Bar Association Resolution Recommending that all Persons Under the Age of Twenty-One Be Exempted from the Death Penalty: Seth Miller and Robert Weiner, Resolution 111, American Bar Association Death Penalty Due Process Review Project and Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice, February 2018
PRIOR TO Roper v. Simmons:
(Relies on Prof. Victor Streib's research and reports. See his final report, "The Juvenile Death Penalty Today" (Oct. 7, 2005))
Age and Race Characteristics of Offenders and Victims
Case Summaries of Juvenile Offenders Who Were on Death Row
The Legal Context
Juvenile Offenders Executed, By State
States That Try Juveniles As Adults
Juvenile News and Developments - Current Year
Juvenile News and Developments - Previous Years
Evolving Standards of Decency (PDF)
Adolescent Brain Development and Legal Culpability (PDF)
Fact Sheet: Edward Capetillo, Whose scheduled execution in Texas for March 30, 2004 has been stayed.