[JURIST] CBS News is reporting that the US Supreme Court [official website] has struck down the possibility of the death penalty for juvenile killers. SCOTUSBlog has more on the Court's 5-4 opinion in Roper v. Simmons, 03-633.
10:30 AM ET – In an opinion authored by Justice Kennedy, the Court wrote:
The differences between juvenile and adult offenders are too marked and well understood to risk allowing a youthful person to receive the death penalty despite insufficient culpability. An unacceptable likelihood exists that the brutality or cold-blooded nature of any particular crime would overpower mitigating arguments based on youth as a matter of course, even where the juvenile offender's objective immaturity, vulnerability, and lack of true depravity should require a sentence less severe than death. In some cases a defendant's youth may even be counted against him. In this very case, as we noted above, the prosecutor argued Simmons' youth was aggravating rather than mitigating. While this sort of overreaching could be corrected by a particular rule to ensure that the mitigating force of youth is not overlooked, that would not address our larger concerns.
The Court also took note of international trends away from the use of the death penalty on minors. Read the Court's full opinion [text, PDF]. Read Justice Stevens' concurrence [text, PDF] joined by Justice Ginsburg, as well as Justice O'Connor's dissent [text, PDF] and Justice Scalia's dissent [text, PDF] joined by Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justice Thomas.
10:40 AM ET – A Reuters story is now available online.