Juvenile Law Center filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court of the United States on behalf of a Missouri juvenile who was convicted of homicide and sentenced to death. The case challenged the constitutionality of the juvenile death penalty—specifically arguing that the execution of an individual for crimes that he or she committed before the age of 18 constitutes cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment.
Juvenile Law Center’s brief argued that it is unconstitutional to sentence juvenile offenders to death because adolescents and adults are developmentally different in critical areas, including impulse control and understanding the consequences of their actions.
In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court of the United States banned the imposition of the death penalty on individuals convicted for crimes they committed before the age of 18 as unconstitutional. The Court grounded its decision in developmental and scientific research demonstrating that juveniles possess a greater capacity for rehabilitation than adults, are more susceptible to negative peer pressure and are immature and impaired in their judgment and decision-making. The Court also held that the sentence served no legitimate penological purpose when applied to juveniles.