Impact of Roper v. Simmons: Juvenile Capital Punishment Verdict

Over the years there have been many court cases. Some of these cases have affected the people in a good way by expanding their rights and some affected bad by limiting them. It is very important to pay attention to court cases because they may just affect your very own way of life. The Supreme Court decision in Roper v. Simmons has expanded a person’s 14th Amendment right by declaring execution of minors is unconstitutional.

In the case of Roper v.

Simmons Christopher Simmons was sentenced to death in 1993 but because he kept submitting appeals it was postponed until 2002 (Roper v Simmons).

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Simmons broke into a house and tied up a woman and killed her, this is considered premeditated murder and is why he was sentenced to death (Roper v Simmons). Many people were involved in the Roper v Simmons case some of the people in the case were; Donald P. Roper (Petitioner), Christopher Simmons (Respondent), James R Layton (Chief Lawyer for Roper), Seth P Waxman (Chief Lawyer for Simmons), Stephen G.

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Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthony M. kennedy, David H. Souter, John Paul Stevens (Justices for the Court), and Sandra Day O’Connor, WIlliam h. Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas (Justices Dissenting) (Brannen 318). During Simmons appealing the U.S. Supreme Court decided that it was “cruel and unusual punishment” to execute the mentally disabled (Roper v Simmons). After the Supreme Court made this ruling Americans thought Simmons case to be cruel and unusual (Roper v Simmons). Due to this the Supreme Court of Missouri decided to reconsider Simmons case (Roper v Simmons). The Public had strong feelings towards death penalty for minors but the courts did not want to rely on the opinions of the Americans because when their opinions change the court's decision stands so they did not want the vote to be influenced by the voice of what Americans thought they wanted it to be influenced by what the right decision is (Brannen 320). When The SCOTUS votes on a case they want to take many things into consideration such as the Public opinion, Norms of foreign nations but the down sides are the public opinion can be and is swayed by countless things and changed frequently also by taking in foreign laws and norms is dangerous because what works for one population many not work in others so to change American laws and standards based off this is difficult, so when the Supreme Court makes these decisions its increasingly difficult for them and takes a lot of thought also because the way they rule will changing things for the future and the past as well. By overturning cases old cases can be retried and future criminals can get away with things, in this instance any future minor that commits murder can not be punished with capital punishment and if they decide to give him the death penalty this case will be overturned at that point (Brannen 321). This is why the Supreme Court does not always make unanimous decisions on cases because of how much goes into the decision. Many people also feel that at the age of 17 people are old enough and mature enough to understand the consequences of murder and they should be punished as adults based off of how bad the crime they commit was such as murder they should then receive the death penalty because of how bad the crime was (O’Connor). Many say that the case of Atkins v Virginia should not have influenced Roper v Simmons because it is almost impossible for the mentally retarded to understand the severity of what they are doing while minors have the possibility of understanding what they are doing especially people at the age of 17 because if the capital punishment age is 18 thats just 1 year off so the maturity varies between everyone someone at 17 may vary well have the same maturity of someone at 18 (O’Connor). So to compare these 2 cases is unfair due to them not being 100% similar.

In Roper v Simmons they argue that the 8th Amendment was violated. They say that they have to determine whether the 8th Amendment permits capital punishment for a specific offense or class of offenders (O’Connor). The 8th Amendment it to protect against “excessive bail excessive fines and cruel and unusual punishment” they argue sentencing a minor, any persons under the age of 18, is unusual and cruel because their minds are not fully developed so they can not fully be held responsible for their crimes. On the other hand some of the Justices think the opposite and anyone that can commit a crime such as murder should have capital punishment because if you are premeditated murder you’re smart enough to know it’s not okay because you don’t wanna get caught and furthermore if that’s what you are doing as a child it can only get worse. This all depends on how you look at the 8th Amendment as well some may say that this is not cruel and unusual punishment because it was premeditated murder and he went through with it.

The Supreme court ruled the execution of minors is cruel and unusual punishment making Simmons to able to be executed for him crimes (Brannen 318). The Court voted in a 6 to 3 vote the majority voted that executing Simmons would be a violation of the 8th Amendment (Brannen 318). During this case hearing the Supreme Court just voted on a case that made it unconstitutional to kill the mentally ill or “mentally retarded” and this made many people say that the Roper v Simmons case was unconstitutional as well (Roper v Simmons). The case of Atkins v Virginia was the case involving capital punishment of the mentally ill. The ruling of this case brought a lot of attention towards the way Roper v Simmons was ruled which is why they reconsidered the case. This may have and most likely did bring a lot of basis to the Justices decisions in the case. The case of Stanford v Kentucky was a case that said the death penalty for 16 and 17 year olds was not unconstitutional however when this case came around and they said juvenile death penalty was unconstitutional they overturned that case and that was a case in 1989 (Brannen 321). When this cases was finished the ruling affected 72 juvenile offenders in 12 states at the time (brannen 321). One case, the Beltway Sniper Attacks, was committed just months after the Roper v Simmons case and was directly affected. 17 year old Lee Boyd Malvo and John Allen Muhammad went on a killing rampage through Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia for 3 weeks killing 10 people and critically injuring 3 others. When apprehended Muhammad was executed by lethal injection but Malvo was sentenced to 6 consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole because of the way Roper v Simmons turned out or he would have been executed as well (brannen 321).

There have been many cases that went through The SCOTUS and not all of them make direct effects on the people. Roper v Simmons made a major effect on the people because it stated that minors can not get capital punishment because of it being cruel and unusual punishment.

Updated: Nov 30, 2023
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Impact of Roper v. Simmons: Juvenile Capital Punishment Verdict. (2022, Jun 03). Retrieved from

Impact of Roper v. Simmons: Juvenile Capital Punishment Verdict essay
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