Essay: Courts and Juvenile Justice System

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¶ … oral arguments in Roper v. Simmons demonstrate exactly how the chief justices reached their decision in the case. The justices debate all the different aspects of the issue, using various forms of reasoning and rhetorical strategies to come to a consensus on the matter. In this case, the chief justices are deciding whether it is constitutional to sentence a person under the age of 18 years to death. The justices begin by talking about culpability and the assumption that juveniles are not equally as culpable as their adult counterparts. Interestingly, some of the justices compare juveniles with mentally disabled persons to show how the courts determine culpability. Justice Layton points out that the comparison does not always make sense because some older juveniles are "equally culpable" as those who are young adults (p. 5, line 7). Following the line of reasoning related to culpability, the justices debate the age limit of 18 as being the standard definition of age of majority. As Justice Scalia points out, the age of 18 is arbitrary. Yet Ginsburg notes that its arbitrariness is less important than the consistency of conferring adult responsibility in the law. Thus, a person cannot vote, serve in the military, or serve on a jury until they are 18 years of age and there is no reason why a person who is not deemed a fully functioning member of the adult community should be considered eligible for the death penalty. These early arguments form the groundwork of the decision.

Also key to the oral arguments in this case is which issues are decided by the states and which issues require federal mandate. The Eighth Amendment to the Constitution includes a provision against "cruel and unusual punishment," which is the pivotal issue at stake: does the death penalty for a minor constitute cruel and unusual punishment? If so, the practice would be unconstitutional and therefore not permitted by any state. If not, then the states would be permitted to sentence minors to death. The justices organize and simplify their arguments by separating the terms "cruel" and "unusual." First, Kennedy analyzes what "unusual" means. To be unusual, something needs to be deemed rare. Kennedy compares the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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APA Format

Courts and Juvenile Justice System.  (2016, July 26).  Retrieved July 19, 2019, from

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"Courts and Juvenile Justice System."  26 July 2016.  Web.  19 July 2019. <>.

Chicago Format

"Courts and Juvenile Justice System."  July 26, 2016.  Accessed July 19, 2019.