Criminal Procedures

Juvenile Defendants

Can a juvenile defendant receive the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole?

Juveniles cannot receive the death penalty. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Roper v. Simmons (2005) that it constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment” under the Eighth Amendment to execute juveniles in part because juveniles are less mature and less able to appreciate the gravity of their actions than adults.

As of this writing, it is uncertain whether juveniles can receive the second toughest criminal sentence—life in prison without the possibility of parole. On November 9, 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two cases from Florida—Sullivan v. Florida and Graham v. Florida that will decide the question.


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