Supreme Court Case Study (Roper V. Simmons)

Topics: Supreme Court of the United States, Roper v. Simmons, United States Pages: 8 (3005 words) Published: April 12, 2013
The following is a case summary on United States Supreme Court case 03-633 Roper v. Simmons. Even though many disagree with the death penalty all together, even more disagree with the death penalty for juveniles. It is my opinion that anyone over the age of 16 who can premeditate and act upon an event so gruesome that includes either or both rape and murder should be subject to the death penalty. Juvenile offenses continue to rise in number and severity and many of those are because some juveniles know they will not be tried as adults or face harsh punishment due to their age and the restrictions the law puts on offenses by juveniles.

Case Overview

Roper v. Simmons
Basics and Facts
The Roper v. Simmons case, docket number 03-633 heard by the United States Supreme Court on October 13, 2004, concerns the matter of the juvenile death penalty as it relates to cases in the United States of America and to the protections provided by the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The case was brought first to the Missouri State Supreme Court by Christopher Simmons in 2002 after numerous failed attempts at the state and federal level to appeal his death sentence. Simmons, who at the age of 17, did so willingly and premeditated commit an act of murder after breaking and entering into an elderly woman's home. Simmons and his accomplice tied up, gagged, and duct taped the woman, drove her to a train track overpass, then threw her over the side into the river below. All the while, the woman remained alive and conscious until she met her untimely death in the river below. Not only was the murder premeditated, Simmons also bragged about the murder weeks later when the woman's body was found. Witnesses claim that Simmons bragged that he could get away with the murder because he was a minor. After his arrest, conviction and sentencing, Simmons argued that his death sentence violated his protection of the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution, prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment. The Missouri Supreme Court (in an unprecedented decision) over-ruled a previous opinion in 1989 by the United States Supreme Court in the matter of Stanford v. Kentucky. Essentially, the Missouri State Supreme Court took it upon themselves to decide that executing juveniles under the age of 18 was unconstitutional, and that the U.S. Supreme Court's Ruling in 1989 was null and void. The court based their decision on the "fact" and finding that the majority of Americans now considered the execution of a minor to be cruel and unusual, whereas in the 1989 Stanford case, they did not.

The state court undoubtedly relied on some type of public opinion polling to secure their argument; however, public opinion polls only provide a statistical, crude and sometimes general overview of certain details of a specific topic by using a randomized sample from a population based on pre-determined criteria or in some cases total randomization (Roskin, p.44). For example, a public opinion poll may sample a select number of individuals and ask their opinion on a specific issue related to the election such as jobs, housing market, gay rights and Constitutional issues. In my opinion, a simple polling is no way to base a judicial decision, because polling will not actually capture the true feelings of the majority of Americans.

The case was later brought to the United States Supreme Court on behalf of the government, who argued that allowing state courts to "overturn a Supreme Court decision by looking at 'evolving standards' would be dangerous, because state courts could just as easily decide that executions prohibited by the Supreme Court were now permissible due to a change in the beliefs of the American people" (

Legal Issues
Although the government brought the case to the United States Supreme Court under the argument that states should...

References: Davenport, A. U. (2009). Basic Criminal Law: The Constitution, Procedures, and crimes.  Columbus: Pearson prentice hall.
Center for Military Readiness. (2009, November 12). Retrieved November 12, 2009, from:
Oyez Project: Roper v. Simmons , 543 U.S. 551 (2005). (2009, November 12). Retrieved November 12, 2009, from:
Roskin, M, Cord, R, Medeiros, J, & Jones, W (2007). Political Science: An Introduction (10th ed.). New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall.
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