In the Roper v. Simmons, case the idea of imposition of capital punishment on juvenile offenders is examined in great detail. Christopher Simmons was convicted of capital murder he committed when he was 17. Simmons appealed up through the courts with each one upholding the death penalty decision until in 2004, when the Missouri Supreme Court examined and overturned the initial ruling. This essay examines the aspects of the case and the subsequent impact of the case on the justice system and processes.
Understanding the case calls for the understanding of the facts of the case. Christopher Simmons aged 17 in Missouri 1993, plotted the murder of Shirley Crook. The plot included two of his associates; Charles Benjamin and John Tessmer. On the appointed night, Charles pulled out of the plot leaving the other two to proceed. Shirley was tied up, eyes covered and then thrown of a bridge in a state park. Simmons was arrested and charged with the murder of Shirley Crook. The jury found him guilty of first-degree murder and the death penalty was passed down. Following this decision, Simmons proceeded to appeal the decision through the courts, with each court upholding the decision. This was until the case reached the Missouri Supreme Court where the capital punishment decision was overturned.
The two sides of this case are the courts and Simmons. In the original decision, the court ruling on the case was because it was an overwhelming case presented by the prosecution. The evidence presented against Simmons was insurmountable. Testimony from Tessmer proved that the murder of Shirley was premeditated because Simmons talked about the plans before the act and bragged about it afterwards. There was the videotaped reenactment as well which contributed to the guilty verdict returned by the jury. The death penalty was recommended despite no criminal history of the defendant and his age. On Simmons side of the argument, he stated several factors that contributed to the act. It was argued that due to his age, he was impulsive and could not fully grasp the consequences of his actions. He also attributed his troubled past as one of the factors that led to his actions. Afterwards, post-conviction, he cited ineffective counsel as one of the things leading to the conviction
The lower court decision verdict found Simmons guilty of first-degree murder. The death penalty was passed down despite the fact of possible mitigating factors such as the defendant’s age as well as the lack of previous criminal history. The idea of premeditation and lack of remorse had, no doubt, influenced the court’s decision. When the supreme court of Missouri overturned the decision of the lower courts, it was due to the idea of juvenile offenders. The issues raised was whether the death penalty constituted cruel and unusual punishment when it was imposed on individuals who committed crimes when they we minors. If so, it would be a direct contradiction of the 8th and 14th amendments that are against imposing of cruel and unusual punishment on offenders. This decision was along the lines of the evolving decency of the society(Scott, 2005).
The case was significant in that it set a precedence for the trying of juvenile offenders. Previous rulings on capital crimes committed by juveniles had been given special considerations especially those who were below the age of 15. This overturning became landmark on the idea of prosecuting such cases.
In conclusion, the Roper v Simmons was a great step in the law process and an unprecedented interpretation of the 8th and 14th amendments. Simmons having spent 9 years on death row was taken of it through extended litigious effort exemplifying what justice for all means.
- FindLaw’s United States Supreme Court case and opinions. (n.d.). Retrieved October 29, 2017, from http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-supreme-court/543/551.html
- Kennedy. Roper v. Simmons (Opinion of the Court), 543 U.S. 551 (U.S. Supreme Court 2005). Retrieved from https://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/03-633.ZO.html
- Roper v. Simmons. (n.d.). Retrieved October 29, 2017, from http://www.apa.org/about/offices/ogc/amicus/roper.aspx
- Scott, C. L. (2005). Roper v. Simmons: Can Juvenile Offenders be Executed? Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law Online, 33(4), 547–552.