“When a juvenile commits a heinous crime, the State can assert forfeiture of the most basic liberties, but the State cannot extinguish one’s life and his potential to attain a mature understanding of his own humanity.” - (U. S. Supreme Court: Roper v. Simmons- No. 03-633, 2005)
In Roper v. Simmons Courts observed that juveniles are not adults and lack responsibility and can easily fall into peer pressure. (Champion, 2013) There are many different factors that attribute to juvenile offenders’ actions, most are not entirely under their control. Three main factors:
1) Brain development hinders juvenile’s ability to refrain from impulsive behavior
2) Most youthful offenders have been brought up in an un-nurturing environment
3) The possibility of the death penalty does not have much effect on the juveniles.
Medical research indicates that the part of the brain that controls impulsiveness in adolescents is not fully developed until the early twenties, thus juveniles are desensitizing to dangerous behavior. It’s unfortunate that most juveniles who commit violent crimes are prone to self-destruction.
A child who is brought up in a broken home lacking nurturing, love and discipline is more likely to commit violent crimes: the lack of maturity and the ability to understand the repercussions of their actions such as a possible death sentence is a concept that is foreign to juveniles. (Streib, 2004)
Considering the above factors, administering the death penalty to juveniles should be regarded as cruel and unusual punishment. When a juvenile commits a heinous crime the juvenile should be punished to the extent necessary, but not put to death. Putting the juvenile to death does not help anyone, it does not ease the recovery of the victim nor does it cure the issues that drove the juvenile to commit the crime.
There have been continuous medical advances that have enabled doctors and neurologists to definitively determine that the brain of a juvenile does not complete development until the early twenties. What neurologist and doctors refer to as executive functions are a set of guiding reasoning abilities needed for goal-directed behavior, including planning, response inhibition, working memory, and attention. These abilities permit the individual to take the time to assess a situation, their options, and to plan a course of action and follow through with it. When executive functions are not mature it results in poor planning skills and attention span which can undermine judgment and decision making. (Johnson, 2010) Knowing that the juvenile’s brain is physically not fully developed to make sound decisions to impose capital punishment would cruel and unusual.
There is a part of the brain called the amygdala which is a part of the limbic system, this part of the brain controls emotions, hunger, desire to mate, and flight or fight responses. Dr. Deborah Yurgelun-Todd has studied the relationship between recent finding of the adolescent brain and...