Roper v Simmons (2005)
When 17 years old Christopher Simmons admitted to commiting murder, 9 months later he was trial as an adult and was sentenced to death. Simmons party argued that he was ‘’very immature’’ and ‘’very susceptible to being manipulated’’ while he was away from home a lot with other teenagers. Simmons filed a new petition for state postconviction relief, arguing that the reasoning of Atkins established that the Constitution prohibits the execution of a juvenile who was under 18 and in light of a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, in Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002), that overturned the death penalty for the mentally retarded, Simmons filed a new petition for state post conviction relief, and the Supreme Court of Missouri concluded that "a national consensus has developed against the execution of the mentally ill," and held that such punishment now violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. Thus, they sentenced Simmons to life imprisonment without parole.
After he had turned 18, he was sentenced to death. His direct appeal and subsequent petitions for state and federal post-conviction relief were rejected. Simmons filed a new petition for state post- conviction relief, arguing that Atkins reasoning established that the Constitution prohibits the execution of a juvenile who was under 18 when he committed his crime. The Missouri Supreme Court agreed and set aside Simmons' death sentence in favor of life imprisonment without eligibility for release.
Law At Issue
Whether it is permissible under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States to execute a juvenile offender who was older than 15 but younger than 18 when he committed a capital crime. The Court outlined the similarities between its analysis of the constitutionality of executing juvenile offenders and the constitutionality of executing the mentally retarded....
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