Magazine article Developments in Mental Health Law
Missouri Supreme Court Bans Execution of Juvenile Offenders
The Missouri Supreme Court ruled that the execution of defendants who were juveniles when they committed their offense is barred by the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. Applying the analysis used by the U.S. Supreme Court in Atkins v. Virginia (2002), the court concluded that evolving standards of decency have similarly led to a national consensus opposing juvenile executions. The court asserted that if the U.S. Supreme Court were to review its decision from 14 years ago in Stanford v. Kentucky (1989), it would rule that "evolving standards of decency" mandate that the execution of 16- and 17-year-old offenders be found unconstitutional.
As evidence, the court noted that five additional states have banned the execution of juvenile offenders despite the popularity of "law and order' legislation, no state has lowered the minimum age for execution, 16 states now require a minimum age of 18 for the death penalty, and, although 22 states permit the death penalty for juveniles, only six have executed a juvenile in the past 14 years. …