Roper v. Simmons - Free Essay on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency

Published: 2022-03-24
Roper v. Simmons - Free Essay on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency
Type of paper:  Research paper
Categories:  Juvenile justice
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 918 words
8 min read

This case involved Christopher Simmons and Donald P. Roper. Christopher Simmons had been convicted for the murder of Shirley Crook and sentenced to life imprisonment. Roper was a Superintendent at a correctional facility that held Simmons. Roper became involved in the case through the writ of habeas corpus. This is the provision that allows a person to petition the court to order the person under arrest to be brought back to court to determine the grounds for their detention or imprisonment. The court order is usually directed towards the custodian who is usually a prison official.

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In 1993, a 17-year-old Christopher Simmons and his colleagues, John Tessmer and Charles Benjamin, conspired to commit murder. John Tessmer later pulled out of the plan, and Simmons and Benjamin went ahead to commit murder. When the case was brought to court the evidence against the two was immense. Other than testimony from their former colleague Tessmer, Simmons confessed, and there were videotapes that showed re-enactment of the crime. The Jury returned a guilty verdict that saw Simmons and his colleague handed a death sentence (Borra, 707).

This act of murder was committed in Cape Girardeau County, Missouri, USA. There were a series of appeals by Simmons through various courts that saw the case end up in Missouri Supreme Court in 2003.The case took place between 1993 when the death sentence was passed and 2003 and August, 26th, 2003 when Missouri Supreme Court overturned the sentence. The proceedings highly influenced the events of the proceedings in other parts of the country such as Atkins v. Virginia a case that involved the execution of the mentally disabled. It was influenced by the proceedings that had earlier occurred in 1989 in Stanford v. Kentucky (Miller, 279)

In an earlier case, Stanford v. Kentucky, the U.S Supreme Court had determined that execution of minors not be unconstitutional. This provided grounds for the Missouri Supreme Court to uphold an earlier decision by a lower court. However when The U.S Supreme Court determined execution of mentally disabled as the violation of the 8th and 14th amendment, the earlier verdict in the Stanford v. Kentucky case was no longer valid and this provided grounds for the court to overturn an earlier decision.

Simmons was arrested at the age of 17. At that time the case was outside the jurisdiction of the Missouri Juvenile Court system. This meant that Simmons would be tried as an adult. In the trial, the evidence presented against Simmons led the jury to return a murder verdict. This allowed the case to proceed to the penalty phase. In the penalty phase, the defense had made several attempts to bring Simmons age as an issue. They even brought Simmons family to plead on his behalf. The jury, however, the jury recommended the death penalty which the judge was happy to impose.

Simmons got a new attorney who appealed the case to the trial court. Simmons cited ineffective assistance by his previous attorney. Part of the argument presented at the trial court was that Simmons age meant that he was immature and impulsive (Denno, 379). His upbringing was also presented as part of the defense. All of which the trial court denied a motion for post-conviction relief. They did find inadequate assistance as enough grounds for constitutional violation. The Missouri Supreme Court affirmed a consolidated appeal in 1997 by Simmons attorney on conviction and sentence and denial of post-conviction relief. State v. Simmons, 944 S. W. 2d 165, 169 (en banc), cert. Denied, 522 U.S. 953 (1997).Simmons defense team then moved to Federal courts to appeal Simmons sentencing on the writ of habeas corpus. The Federal Courts turned down the appeal. Simmons v. Bowersox, 235 F.3d 1124, 1127 (CA8), cert. denied, 534 U.S. 924 (2001).After this Federal courts decision that upheld earlier rulings by the lower courts, Simmons case was all but settled. However, in 2002, the Atkins v. Virginia case saw provided Simmons with enough grounds to appeal his sentencing (Weeks, 451). The Missouri Supreme court agreed to hear Simmons case on the basis of post-conviction relief. State ex rel. Simmons v. Roper, 112 S. W. 3d 397 (2003) (en banc). The Missouri Supreme Court overturned the earlier ruling on the grounds that a national consensus had developed against the execution of minors. 12 States had barned execution in its entirety, no State had reduced its execution age below 18 years and five States had raised their minimum age of execution to 18 years.

Justice Scalia who was joined by Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justice Thomas wrote a dissenting opinion that questioned the basis of the ruling. They argued the basis for the formation of national consensus siting that only 18 of the 38 States that had death sentences, had abolished execution of minors. They also argued that the court have no part in interpreting the international law and implementing it in the constitution. The ruling, in this case, became the precedence for other cases involving minors. The ruling also overturned death sentences for 72 other inmates that were on death row.

Work Cited

Miller, Alexis J., and Elisabeth Beare. "Roper v. Simmons." The Encyclopedia of Juvenile Delinquency and Justice (2017).Denno, Deborah W. "The scientific shortcomings of Roper v. Simmons." Ohio St. J. Crim. L. 3 (2005): 379.

Miller, Alexis J., and Richard Tewksbury. "Sentenced to Die: Controversy and Change in the Ultimate Sanction for Juvenile Offenders." Controversies in Juvenile Justice and Delinquency(2008): 279.

Weeks, Robin. "Comparing children to the mentally retarded: How the decision in Atkins v. Virginia will affect the execution of juvenile offenders." BYU J. Pub. L. 17 (2002): 451.

Borra, Jennifer Eswari. "Roper v. Simmons." Am. UJ Gender Soc. Pol'y & L. 13 (2005): 707.

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