Missouri Supreme Court Throws Out Juvenile Death Sentence Based on Evolving Standards of Decency

In a 4-3 decision to vacate the death sentence of juvenile offender Christopher Simmons, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that the juvenile death penalty violates the nation's evolving standards of decency and is therefore unconstitutional. Noting that "a national consensus has developed against the execution of juvenile offenders," the Court's opinion cited evidence such as the growing number of states that have banned the practice. The Court resentenced Simmons to life in prison without parole. According to the current statute law in Missouri, defendants age 16 and over at the time of their crime can be sentenced to death. That law had been upheld by a 1989 U.S. Supreme Court decision. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 26, 2003). Sixteen other states forbid the death penalty for juveniles. See Juvenile Death Penalty.