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under the guidelines of a more punitive system such as the adult court system. For this reason, these advocates suggested that serious and violent juveniles be subject to certifi cation to be tried as adults. The Supreme Court in Kent outlines specifi c factors to be addressed by judges in certifi cation deci- sions. These factors include (1) an adherence to due process procedures and (2) a full investigation into the matter at hand as well as any information that may be used to assist in the decision-making process related to certifi cation. Judicial waivers are the most common, although there are other types of waivers available.

Attitudinal changes toward juvenile behavior may have infl uenced the modifi cations of waiver statutes in the 1990s. A review of these modifi cations reveal that in relation to judicial waivers, (1) some states lowered the age of eligibility for transfer while others eliminated age requirements, (2) in some instances, new offenses were made eligible for judicial waiver, and (3) ages were raised and lowered based on the offense involved (Bilchik, 1997). Certifi cation to adult court has some advan- tages, such as the right to a jury trial or plea bargaining, and some disadvantages; most notably, the juvenile begins his/her criminal record when certifi ed to adult court. Once certifi ed, juveniles were susceptible to any sentence that is applicable to adults, even the death penalty.

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Death sentences for juveniles have been a part of United States history since the 1600s. There have been more than three hundred executions of juvenile offenders that have been documented in the United States, and 22 of these executions occurred during the modern era of the death penalty. A closer examination of death sentences for juveniles reveals that 38 death sentences were imposed for juveniles in the 1970s with 12 each year for 1975 and 1977. A breakdown of these 24 juveniles reveals that there were two 15-year-olds, nine 16-year-olds, and 13 17-year-olds, respectively. Thirty-two of the 38 death sentences were reversed (Streib, 2005).

During the ’80s death sentences for juveniles rose to 65, with the most being imposed in 1982 (14). All but one of these juveniles was 17. Forty-seven of the 65 death sentences imposed in the ’80s were reversed. A procedural issue was raised in Eddings v. Oklahoma (1982); Eddings was a juvenile but tried as an adult for his crime. Citing the refusal of the judge to review all of the mitigating evidence presented, the petitioner asked the court for relief. After review, the court ruled that the sentence must be vacated. In Thompson v. Oklahoma (1988), the petitioner sought relief from execution. The question presented to the court was whether or not the execution of an offender who was 15 years old at the time of the crime violated the Eight Amendment. The majority of the court, citing (1) evolving stan- dards of decency, (2) legislation that had established a minimum age for the imposition of the death penalty, and (3) the minor’s lack of culpability, ruled that the judgment is vacated and remanded. The next year, in Stanford v. Kentucky (1989), the court ruled that the Eighth Amendment does not protect minors 16 years old or 17 years old from the death penalty.

The most death sentences imposed on juveniles in one year occurred in 1994 (17). Overall, the ’90s had the highest number of death sentences imposed on juveniles, with a total of 101. Most of those sentenced were 17 but there were 24 16-year-olds and two 15-year-olds also sentenced during this period. There was a noticeable decline in death sentences for juveniles in the early part of 2000s. The fi rst four years only produced 22 death sentences, as it appears that public opinion toward juveniles and the death penalty was changing.

Indirectly, Atkins v. Virginia (2002) established a protected class—the mentally disabled—from the death penalty. In re Stanford (2002), the court decided not to address the issue of the death penalty for juveniles although at least four justices (Stevens, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Souter) wanted to do so. Continued challenges to the death penalty for juveniles was brought before the Missouri Supreme Court in Simmons v. Roper (2003). The Missouri Supreme Court, in its review of the case, noted that there appeared to be a national trend that viewed the death penalty for juveniles as a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s protection against cruel and unusual punishment. This case was granted cer- tiorari by the U.S. Supreme Court as Roper v. Simmons (2005). In its Roper ruling, the court held that under the Eight Amendment’s evolving standard of decency, the death penalty for persons 17 years

 

 

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old is cruel and unusual punishment. In response to Roper several jurisdictions selected a minimum age of 18 years old in order for one to be death eligible. Prior to the Roper ruling, Streib (2005) noted that Texas housed the majority of juveniles sentenced to death. As with adults, the Southern region had the most death sentenced

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