The Impact of the Roper v. Simmons Case on Death Penalties for Juvenile Offenders

Roper v. Simmons case

This case was about a teenager who committed a capital offense, first degree murder. He had not attained the age of eighteen when he committed the crime which made him a juvenile offender. He was handed the death penalty after he turned eighteen but it was appealed nine years later. The appealed yielded in the death penalty being withdrawn and instead he was sentenced to life imprisonment without any legibility for parole.

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The Supreme Court considered the fact that an individual under the age of eighteen is not likely to fully analyze the consequences of their actions. The court also took into account the fact that a juvenile offender is likely to be coerced into confessing a crime they did not commit. Conviction of offenders based on such confessions is out rightly wrongful conviction. Based on these facts, the United States Supreme Court in 2005 held that the death penalty of juvenile offenders was “cruel and unusual punishment.” (Roper v. Simmons(2005), 2005) It was in this ruling that the death penalty of the juvenile offenders was revoked.

Prior to the 2005 ruling by the Supreme Court, the history of juvenile prosecutions has come a long way. The American justice system adopted the English common law which allowed for the death penalty in juvenile offenders as young as eight year olds. The age bracket of juvenile offenders legible for the death penalty has been constantly decreasing and prior to the Roper v. Simmons case; many states excluding Texas had prohibited the death sentencing of juvenile offenders. Texas is a conservative state which could explain the reluctance to do away with the death penalty for children under the age of eighteen. The appeal on the conviction in this case ensures that humanitarian laws are applied and children were given a chance to make something out of themselves after juvenile (Death Penalty for Minors, 2016). The young adults have for a long time prior to 2005 been wrongfully convicted for crimes they committed without fully understanding the repercussions of their actions until it is too late. With the Supreme Court ruling in 2005, the juvenile offenders have a chance at survival.

The juvenile death penalty is an extreme application of justice to young people who have not attained the age of consent. The age of consent is set at eighteen years in most states of the United States. It is at this age that an individual can be legally held accountable for their actions both positive and negative. Death penalties for juvenile offender is an over-reaction on the part of justice given that the offenders at that age are highly susceptible to foreign influence and this could lead to them committing crimes. The Supreme Court was very sober on ruling against the death penalty (Roper v. Simmons(2005), 2005). The ruling by the court gives the juvenile offenders a chance to fix their lives once they grow into adulthood, something which the death penalty took away from them before it was overturned in 2005.

There are three major waivers that are applied to transfer juvenile offenders into adult courts. In the case of Roper v. Simmons, the judicial discretionary transfer laws would be best suited. This meant that the legal system was in the know about the case and how it was handled. This would give the system a chance to later review the case if there were doubts on the prosecution. It would also ensure that the public has continued faith in the judicial system.


Death Penalty for Minors. (2016, December 31). Retrieved February 27, 2017, from USLEGAL:

Roper v. Simmons(2005). (2005, March 1). Retrieved February 27, 2017, from The Campaign for the Fair Sentecing of youth:

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