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22 Notre Dame J.L. Ethics & Pub. Pol'y 9 (2008)
A Slower Form of Death: Implications of Roper v. Simmons for Juveniles Sentenced to life without Parole

handle is hein.journals/ndlep22 and id is 13 raw text is: ARTICLES

A SLOWER FORM OF DEATH:
IMPLICATIONS OF ROPER V. SIMMONS FOR
JUVENILES SENTENCED TO
LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE
BARRY C. FELD*
The Supreme Court in Roper v. Simmons' interpreted the
Eighth Amendment to prohibit states from executing offenders
for crimes they committed when younger than eighteen years of
age. The Court relied on objective indicators of evolving stan-
dards of decency, such as state statutes and jury decisions to sup-
port its judgment that a national consensus existed against
executing adolescents. The Justices also conducted an indepen-
dent proportionality analysis of youths' criminal responsibility
and concluded that their reduced culpability warranted a cate-
gorical prohibition of execution. Juveniles' immature judgment,
susceptibility to negative peer influences, and transitory personal-
ity  development diminished   their criminal responsibility.
Because of their reduced culpability, the Court held that they
could never deserve or receive the most severe sentence imposed
on adults.
By contrast, the Court's non-capital proportionality jurispru-
dence focuses on the seriousness of the offense, rather than the
culpability of the offender, to assess whether a punishment is
excessive. Focusing only on the gravity of the offense-the harm
caused-precludes consideration of adolescents' diminished
responsibility when they commit serious crimes for which they
receive life without parole (LWOP) sentences. In many jurisdic-
tions, LWOP sentences are mandatory and preclude any individ-
ualized consideration of the offender. About ten times as many
adolescents receive LWOP sentences every year as ever faced the
* Centennial Professor of Law, University of Minnesota. B.A., University
of Pennsylvania, 1966; J.D., University of Minnesota Law School, 1969; Ph.D.
(Sociology), Harvard University, 1973.
1. Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005).

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