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Criminal Procedures

Juvenile Defendants

Did the U.S. Supreme Court rely on international law in reaching its decision against the death penalty for juvenile offenders?

Yes, the majority of the Court relied in part on international law—or the law of other countries—in reaching its decision that executing juvenile murderers would violate the Eighth Amendment. The Court noted that at least for 50 years it has referred to the laws of other countries and to international authorities as instructive for its interpretation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of “cruel and unusual punishments.” The majority noted that the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Children prohibited the death as did “several other significant international covenants.” The majority later added: “The opinion of the world community, while not controlling our outcome, does provide respected and significant confirmation for our own conclusions.”



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