Roper v. Simmons | Capital Punishment for Juveniles

Like Miranda v. Arizona, the circumstances of Roper v. Simmons overhauled and critiqued the U.S. justice system. As a result, the Supreme Court ruled that capital punishment was unconstitutional for crimes committed when the defendant was less than 18-years-old.

This decision overruled Stanford v. Kentucky from 1989, which upheld capital punishment for offenders who were 16 or older. Roper v. Simmons overturned statues from 25 states that had set a lower age limit.

Christopher Simmons’ Murderous Plot

In 1993, 17-year-old Christopher Simmons devised a plan to murder Shirley Crook with his two younger friends, Charles Benjamin and John Tessmer. The boys’ strategy involved breaking into Crook’s home, tying her up, and then tossing her off a bridge at a local state park.

In the end, Tessmer dropped out of the murder, but Simmons and Benjamin went through with it. The evidence against Simmons and Benjamin was massive. Simmons confessed to the murder, and he even cooperated with authorities to film a reenactment of the crime for court.

Additionally, Tessmer provided a testimony that proved Simmons’ actions were premeditated, which only worsened Simmons’ case. The case was argued relatively recently on October 13th 2004, and it was decided on March 1st 2005 that capital punishment was unconstitutional for minors.

Impact on Capital Punishment in the United States

At the time of the decision, Texas had 29 minors awaiting the death penalty who were instead given life sentences. Alabama had 14 minors, and most other states had about five minors on death row. Altogether, a total of 72 juveniles under 18 had their death sentences revoked.

Before Roper v. Simmons, there had been 22 juveniles sentenced to death and killed in the U.S. since 1976, and 13 of those deaths were in Texas.

Is your son or daughter facing severe punishment for a crime in Arizona?

If your child has been arrested for a serious crime in Mesa, Peoria, Casa Grande, Phoenix, Scottsdale or Mesa, the criminal lawyers at JacksonWhite can help. JacksonWhite’s juvenile defense attorneys will work with you and child to minimize the potential repercussions associated with their crime. Dial (480) 467-4370 to schedule a free and private consultation with dedicated JacksonWhite juvenile defense lawyer, Jeremy Geigle.

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