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Juvenile Death Penalty Essay

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A 16 year old boy is at the peak of their adolescent life, learning and discovering about puberty, maturity, right and wrong and future life goals. On the other hand, a man of 25 has matured, lived long enough to have made both good and bad judgments and has already been in the process of achieving those life goals they once thought of as a teenager. In a given situation, is it ethical to hold these two age groups, with mentalities that are worlds apart, to the same standards and punishments in the justice system? Until Roper v. Simmons in 2005, the justice system did just that, treat the actions of 16 year old with the same consequences as if they had been committed by an adult. In Roper v. Simmons the United States Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional to sentence a juvenile under the age of 18 to the death penalty. Before, Roper v. Simmons, in Thompson v. Oklahoma it had been decided that only those under the age of 16 could not be considered for the death penalty. Were these decisions correct? If an adolescent can commit such a heinous crime as homicide should they not also be able then to handle the consequences? The other side of the argument against the juvenile death penalty states that juveniles do not have the same reasoning skills as an adult and therefore cannot be held to same criminal blameworthiness.

Facts will show that the United States Supreme Court was correct in their decision to ban the death penalty for all those under the age of eighteen. Recent brain imaging scans have shown that an adolescent’s brain is not fully developed until late in adolescence causing them to be immature, have diminished decision making capacity and underdeveloped reasoning and thinking skills (Aronson, 2007); qualities which ...


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...onduct. (2011). Ethics and Judicial Conduct. Guide to Judiciary Policy, 1-19.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (2010, August 18). Brain Basics: Know Your Brain. Retrieved July 2011, from National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/brain_basics/know_your_brain.htm
North, M. (2002). Greek Medicine: The Hippocratic Oath. Retrieved July 2011, from National Institute of Health: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/hmd/greek/greek_oath.html
Paus, T. (2005). Mapping Brain Maturation and Cognitive Development During Adolescence. TRENDS in Cognitive Sciences, 60-68.
Steinberg, L., & Scott, E. S. (2003). Less Guilty by Reason of Adolescence. American Psychologist, 1009-1018.
Strater, S. D. (1994-1995). The Juvenile Death Penalty: In the Best Interests of the Child? Layola University Chicago Law Journal, 147-182.



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