The Death Penalty Is Cruel And Unusual Punishment Essay

1163 Words Dec 5th, 2016 5 Pages
In Roper v. Simmons (2005), the United States Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 opinion delivered by Justice Anthony Kennedy that standards of decency have evolved so that executing minors is cruel and unusual punishment that was prohibited by the Eighth Amendment. The majority decision cited a consensus against the juvenile death penalty among state legislatures, and its own determination that the death penalty is a disproportionate punishment for minors. The Supreme Court also pointed to what they considered overwhelming international opinion and statutes against the death penalty for juveniles. Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justices Antonin Scalia, Sandra Day O’Connor, and Clarence Thomas all dissented. Justice Scalia delivered the dissenting opinion with Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justice Thomas joining. In an effort to gain a better understanding of Dworkin’s and Scalia’s approaches to jurisprudence in regards to the majority and dissenting opinion, we must first lay out the roadmap of the opinions.
In the majority opinion, Justice Kennedy ruled that executing minors was indeed cruel and unusual punishment. He based his decision off of several factors including previous cases, evolving social standards of decency, and how other countries handled similar situations. The evolving standards of decency test, which was used in Atkins v. Virginia, a case in which the Supreme Court held that the execution of the “mentally retarded” (their language, not mine) was cruel and…

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