Academic report

Roper and Race: the Nature and Effects of Death Penalty Exclusions for Juveniles and the “Late Adolescent Class”

By Craig Haney, Frank R. Baumgartner and Karen Steele, on 20 October 2022

In Roper v. Simmons (2005), the US Supreme Court raised the minimum age at which someone could be subjected to capital punishment, ruling that no one under the age of 18 at the time of their crime could be sentenced to death. The present article discusses the legal context and rationale by which the Court established the current age-based limit on death penalty eligibility as well as the scientific basis for a recent American Psychological Association Resolution that recommended extending that limit to include members of the “late adolescent class” (i.e., persons from 18 to 20 years old). In addition, we present new data that address the little-discussed but important racial/ethnic implications of these age-based limits to capital punishment, both for the already established Roper exclusion and the APA-proposed exclusion for the late adolescent class. In fact, a much higher percentage of persons in the late adolescent class who were sentenced to death in the post-Roper era were non-White, suggesting that their age-based exclusion would help to remedy this problematic pattern.

  • Document type Academic report
  • Countries list United States