Roper v. Simmons (2005): forbidding the execution of killers under the age of eighteen

In the case Roper v. Simmons (2005), the Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. Constitution forbids the execution of killers under the age of eighteen years.

The case involved Bill, a seventeen-year-old high-school dropout, who lived in an affluent neighborhood in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Bill was reckless, indifferent, and had no regard for law. In the past three years, Bill had stolen a vehicle, committed three burglaries, and gotten into numerous fights while drinking. For these offenses, Bill had been placed on probation, been in a detention center, and was ordered by a juvenile court judge to a six-month stay in an intensive halfway house.

Bill was at the bowling alley with his friend Jack. He offered five fifteen-to-sixteen-year old girls a ride to their homes in his Chevy Malibu. Bill and Jack sat in the front and were wearing seat belts. None of the five girls, sandwiched in the backseat, could use the seat belts. On a six-lane divided highway, Bill picked up speed. He began tailgating a car on the right lane, then switched to the left lane, accelerated, and shot ahead. Speeding at over 80 miles per hour, Bill lost control of the car and flew across the concrete median into the oncoming traffic. Bill hit another car with four people in it. Four of the five girls in the backseat and two passengers in the car that Bill hit were killed. Bill was neither drunk nor was under the influence of drugs at the time when the accident occurred.

a. Should Bill’s case be handled by the juvenile or the adult justice system? Specify the reasons for your choice.

b. What crimes can Bill be charged with?

c. If Bill is convicted of any of the charges, what sentence should be imposed? Why?

d. In your opinion, should Bill’s case be diverted to a program that provides restorative justice or any other type of community-based correctional program? Why or why not?

e. If the death penalty was still constitutional for sixteen and seventeen-year-olds, do you think this would have been a deterrentfor Bill and his progression as a delinquent? How?

f. Do you agree or disagree whether the death penalty should be unconstitutional for anyone under the age of eighteen years? Why or why not?


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